manufacturing

How The Manufacturing Industry Can Create Capabilities In The Workforce Of Tomorrow

Senior Director at Wiley, leading his company’s Education business growth and profitability in Asia.

Each morning Amy’s phone alarm wakes her up at 5 a.m. She showers and then has her breakfast. Then she starts work with virtual meetings using her laptop. Later she may tend to her garden or change into her sports attire for a run.

Almost every aspect of Amy’s life is touched by manufactured goods. The manufacturing industry is a key driver of global consumption. It creates products we use every day. The World Bank estimates that net manufacturing output contributed to 16% of the world’s GDP in 2020. In the U.S., advanced manufacturing and technology support more than 40 million jobs.

It’s clear that the manufacturing industry plays a huge role in creating valuable job opportunities. At the same time, with the emergence of new technologies such as automation, 3-D printing, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and data science, about 8 in 10 Americans believe that the future of the industry will require higher skills and capabilities.

Growth is critical to a business’s survival. Innovation is a significant factor of growth, and innovation requires a highly skilled workforce. Yet the manufacturing industry faces challenges not only from skills gaps but also a shrinking workforce in many advanced economies.

To create a dynamic, vibrant and skilled workforce, the manufacturing industry needs to reimagine collaboration with communities. There are three key ways industry leaders can evolve with our changing world to capture future opportunities.

Skills Training Collaborations Can Build Lifelong Learners

First, the manufacturing industry can help its workers become lifelong learners. Skills and knowledge are becoming obsolete faster than ever before. To meet challenges and achieve success in Industry 4.0 and 5.0, business leaders must invest in their workers by retraining and upgrading them.

Employers in Singapore are equipping their workers with the skills for advanced manufacturing through national initiatives such as the SkillsFuture Series in Advanced Manufacturing. These efforts are also supported by trade associations, such as Singapore Manufacturing Federation, to multiply impact through members’ networks. Helping workers top-up knowledge and learn new skills continuously can better ensure the relevant and productive workforce needed to drive business growth.

In the U.S., the manufacturing industry has initiated many programs to increase its competitiveness. This is evidenced in the fact that manufactured goods accounted for 82% of all exported merchandise in 2019, contributing $2.35 trillion to the country’s GDP. One example is the Manufacturing USA program, a network of member institutes sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Commerce and Defense. Each of the institutes in the network deal in ongoing workforce development initiatives which engage with educational institutions. These partnerships serve to increase interest in manufacturing careers and equip workers with the skills needed to help grow the industry. This is accomplished by offering such services as mid-career programs, apprenticeships, internships and summer camps which contribute to the narrowing of the skills gap in the U.S.

Streamlining Education With The Manufacturing Industry

Second, business leaders can build stronger pathways between academia and the manufacturing industry. Improved connections shorten the time-to-market from frontier research to industrial technologies and breakthrough market practices. Frontier industries and trade associations can create corporate labs and actively collaborate with universities to anticipate industry needs and even co-create the curricula. Such collaborations can also assist in solving future challenges, prototyping and producing new products and services for tomorrow’s markets.

These measures can also preempt future gaps between current industry skill sets and those required by advanced manufacturing. In addition, they can bring researchers and educators closer to industry settings to better understand the challenges of manufacturing so that they can help learners apply what they learn to create better solutions. The manufacturing industry has many exciting career advancement opportunities, but talented potential employees and students may just not know it. Industry leaders can connect more deeply with their communities and future employees by interacting with students or jobseekers to clear up any misconceptions regarding the industry. My experiences in career talks, mentoring and company visits have yielded encouraging results when prospects better appreciate or experience actual work context and the impact of the industry on their lives.

Broadening The Search For Talent Beyond The Realm Of Education

Third, the manufacturing industry must keep in mind that we do not always have the luxury of long-term solutions. Skills gaps are pressing and require supplementary and immediate solutions to talent needs. Employers can expand talent searches by determining if prior experience or higher education degrees are needed and what essential skills can be learned on the job or through job training programs. Potential candidates without many years of manufacturing experience but eager to learn can contribute greatly to this industry. Employers can also increase the diversity of candidates to include talents who face different situations and can be supported with flexible work arrangements and inclusive practices.

Governments can also address the skills gap by calibrating their policies and accepting more trained foreign workers. We see this, for example, in Japan, which amended the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 2019 to increase the number of skilled foreign workers. This policy change followed a majority of Japanese companies advocating this measure to support the hiring of foreign nationals and narrow the skills gap in the manufacturing industry.

Executives in the manufacturing industry should continuously anticipate changes in the field, adapt and advance business agendas to create good jobs for their people. I hope this article aids in energizing industry transformation by motivating the manufacturing industry to integrate and collaborate with communities in innovative ways, from the realms of skillset training initiatives to academic partnerships and beyond.


Senior Director at Wiley, leading his company’s Education business growth and profitability in Asia.


https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2022/03/14/how-the-manufacturing-industry-can-create-capabilities-in-the-workforce-of-tomorrow/

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