A Closer Look at the Technical Skills Crisis

By Joel Crawford posted 08-29-2018 01:34 PM


The technical skills crisis has created critical strains on manufacturing companies. Thanks to an aging workforce, including 2.7 million retiring Baby Boomers, the manufacturing industry suffers a severe unavailability of talent. This means that more than two million technical and engineering positions will go unfilled by 2025.

Most manufacturing companies cannot afford to lose skilled, experienced talent because of poor recruiting, onboarding or retaining practices. Every organization in North America is scrambling to find skilled talent. There is a significant challenge in creating development programs. It’s important for companies to have in place the proper recruiting and onboarding processes. This will give you higher percentages of quality employees who stay with you.

As Vice President of Sales at Performance Consulting Associates, Inc. (PCA), I work with our human resources (HR) department to present an efficient way for an organization to learn more about the candidate and develop a better understanding of their skill set. At PCA, we train HR professionals to look at a person’s skill set and then put them into a job that best fits. We work closely with companies on the proper approach to enhance a candidate’s experience and keep them engaged.

In this two part series, I will go through the steps necessary to build and maintain a qualified workforce in today’s changing skills landscape.

The Issues with Recruiting Today

The 2008 recession hit the manufacturing industry in two distinct ways. First, training programs came to a halt, which greatly affected the maintenance, reliability, and engineering professions. Secondly, the Baby Boomer generation had to extend their careers due to the loss of pensions and 401ks.

Fast forward to 2018, the economy has rebounded. However, the younger workforce is not as interested in maintenance, technical, or skill trade roles. Companies are scrambling to put together development programs, as Baby Boomers are rapidly leaving with their decades of experience and knowledge.

We are trying to help companies get back to the basics with human capital. What is the proper way to recruit, onboard and train? We lay out this process so that organizations can improve the way they look at the individual.

Consider this data from ManPower Group:

  • 52% of U.S. companies report difficulty filling jobs.
  • 47% of employers blame the prospects’ lack of “hard” job skills or technical skills.
  • 35% of companies cite candidates’ lack of experience.
  • 25% of companies blame the lack of business knowledge or formal qualifications.
  • 28% of companies are increasing staff training and development.

There are not enough training curriculums to accommodate the number of companies who are having difficulties filling jobs. The whole point of going back to basics is to look closely at the current practice. Is it people focused? Is there more of a transactional approach to recruiting and onboarding? We help companies look at that process and break it down – from the length of time for hiring to issues with onboarding and training. Improving those practices will help retain new talent in this competitive market.

Next, I will outline five steps to recruiting quality employees as well as mistakes to avoid and how to maintain employees. Be sure to check back for part two of this blog.





10-19-2018 06:16 AM

Thank you for addressing an issue that impacts the industry on such a large scale. I will highlight one of your early observations: when the economy took a dive, so did the investment in training programs. What a terrible mistake. It is imperative that we view training as a cost saver and not a financial burden. A well-designed training program will provide a positive return on investment and improve the bottom line. It facilitates efficiencies and increased capability.

With that said, there are plenty of training programs out there that are not properly designed using comprehensive requirements analysis and therefore do not translate to expected value. They deserve to be cut when the money gets tight. Hire a professional.

Be the company that attracts talent because your culture values workforce development. Such an approach provides an upper hand in recruiting and retraining talent in today's incredibly competitive landscape!

09-04-2018 03:15 PM

​I keep hearing about the Baby Boomer retirement issue and the resulting "Brain Drain" but I don't see companies offering what most Boomers want and that is flexibility. I am working in the Oil and Gas Industry which is known for its "Boom and Bust" cycles and in the last boom they were so desperate for workers that companies were bringing in temporary foreign workers. Then in 2015 when the oil industry went into a slump due to oil prices there were massive layoffs. My challenge to industry is to go to the schools and promote trades more and give funding and supplies to technical schools. When my children graduated high school the career days all talked about University but did a poor job of promoting trades. The second challenge I would give industry is to give Boomers the flexibility that will keep them working longer. Many companies in industry do not have job sharing, reduced hours or other flexible options that would keep many Boomers from retiring at 60 and many would work until 65 if this was an option. This is a good way to pass on the torch of knowledge by mentoring the younger hires before all this knowledge retires along with them. The pulp mill I worked at offered full benefits for both half time positions as an incentive and it worked well retaining many guys that would have retired. Some companies are offering wage averaging so you can work 4 years and have your salary spread over 5 years so you get one year off every 5 years with pay. Many of the options are at no cost to companies but a little paper work but are a huge benefit.

08-29-2018 02:39 PM

Nice post Joel.  I look forward to Part 2!

I'm also interested in finding out what actions other companies are taking 1) to fill their talent pipeline and 2) to retain talent.  Additionally knowledge capture from the retiring generation will be critical to future success...how do we transfer that experience to our newer employees?

How we react to the Skills Gap will be critical to the future of business and to our economy.