The shortage of skilled workers has overtaken the economy as the greatest hurdle anticipated by manufacturers in the year ahead, according to the ASQ 2018 Manufacturing Outlook Survey.
ASQ conducts the Manufacturing Outlook Survey annually to gauge manufacturing professionals’ views on the year ahead.
More than 650 manufacturing professionals responded to the survey, which was conducted online in October and November. Respondents represented a multitude of industries, including automotive, medical device, aerospace, and oil and gas.
According to this year’s results, 41 percent of manufacturers said finding skilled workers will be the number one challenge in 2018, compared with 30 percent who reported the economy as their biggest hurdle.
ASQ Chair Eric Hayler said the results of this year’s Manufacturing Outlook Survey are both encouraging and cause for concern.
“While it’s great that the economy is improving, it’s troubling that manufacturers expect to struggle finding the skilled workers they need to be successful,” Hayler said.
To help find the skilled candidates they currently need, 39 percent of respondents said they have hired an agency to help, while 30 percent are working with local colleges on programs that teach students the required manufacturing skills. Fifteen percent of respondents said they enhanced their benefits packages to attract qualified candidates.
While manufacturers are taking necessary steps to hire for vacant positions, fewer manufacturers anticipate having to fill vacant positions due to retirements—35 percent said it’s very unlikely retirements will affect their organization in 2018, compared with 33 percent who said it will.
Regardless, 43 percent plan to fill the vacancies on a case-by-case basis, with 69 percent training new hires on the job. Twelve percent require additional, company-provided classroom training and six percent require third-party classroom training.
In addition to questions about skills shortages and the impact of retiring employees, the Manufacturing Outlook Survey asked respondents about their economic outlook for the coming year.
Seventy-two percent of respondents said they expect an increase in their company’s revenue. However, only 69 percent said they realized a revenue increase in 2017.
Furthermore, 65 percent of respondents said they expect salary increases in 2017, while less than one percent expect a salary reduction, and 44 percent said they expect their company to increase staff. Forty-three percent of respondents expect their organization will maintain current staffing levels, while 13 percent said they expect staff cuts in 2018.