As technology continues to support the manufacturing sector, and advances in AI and automation are integrated into the workplace, the need for highly skilled workers is on the rise. In fact, according to Gartner, AI will create more jobs than it eliminates by 2020. But what happens if there aren’t enough people with a degree in computer programming or engineering to support the AI? How will companies keep the technology running without enough people certified in the skilled trades?
The Changing Face of Hiring in the Manufacturing Sector
The easiest solution to this problem is to promote careers in manufacturing to youth in the hopes that they will go into a degree or certificate program that is in high demand. However, this isn’t a surefire remedy, and may not provide enough personnel to the industry.
Instead, manufacturers should consider their current workforce and older job applicants, who are full of untapped potential even without specific desired letters after their name. Because the reality is that technology changes so rapidly that continuous skills development is required, even for those that have the formal education. There’s no reason that other job seekers can’t be trained to perform the same role.
While a certain base level of digital fluency is desired from a new hire, employers can no longer be picky about degree requirements. There simply aren’t enough qualified applicants to do so. Instead, hiring practices now need to change to look at the skills needed for manufacturing employees to succeed, with supplemental training provided throughout their career.
Focusing on Skills Development Versus Formal Qualifications
According to RBC’s report Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption the skills that will ensure employees can face tomorrow’s challenges at work are:
- Critical thinking
- Social perceptiveness
- Complex problem solving
- Active listening
- Collaboration and coordination with others
During a job interview and when reviewing an applicant’s resumé, it’s important for the hiring manager to take a step back and ask whether previous experience indicates the above skills. While a new hire may not have training and hours on the manufacturing shop floor, they could have shown complex problem-solving skills while running their own business. Applicants can also demonstrate skills, such as active listening and social perceptiveness, right in the interview. Manufacturing managers need to think outside the box to find employees that have shown they can learn, grow, and collaborate.
The ability to adapt to change, learn quickly, and solve the problems of the future are far more important skills than a specialized degree. Hiring practices need to show some flexibility and must adjust to reflect this changing landscape in the manufacturing industry.
The Eastern Ontario Manufacturing Workforce Development Project (EOMWDP) is addressing the skills gap by working with employers, educators and municipalities. The goal of the EOMWDP is to improve hiring and retention within the backbone of the eastern Ontario economy: manufacturing.
Addressing the Skills Needed for Manufacturing Head On