Skills Gap Articles and Reports

Skills Gap Articles and Reports
Skills Gap Articles and Reports

Numerous articles and studies have been written over the past 20 years about the expected skills gap challenge. Today, the cabinet manufacturing industry is facing head-on the workforce challenges brought on by factors including:

  1. Societal norms dictating college education as the pathway to career success
  2. An education system focused on preparing all students for college
  3. A decreased emphasis on and funding for career technical education (CTE)
  4. The image of manufacturing as dirty, unsafe, and not technologically advanced
  5. In some communities, the growing Opioid Crisis affecting labor force availability

This resources section includes various background articles and reports written by HR consultants, associations, training organizations, business media, and government agencies. 


Last updated 1/23/2020

"Employer Perspectives on Workforce Development: How businesses are adapting to the future of work(Elizabeth Mann Levesque, Brookings Report, December 6, 2019 six sections)

Employer leadership is imperative and flexible. "This leadership can take many different forms, from partnering with local high schools, to creating internal skills development programs, to identifying the skills they need and communicating these skills to local education and community partners."

Section 1: Understanding the skills gap -- and what employers can do about it

Sections 2-5: Four manufacturing companies discuss how they identified their skills gap issues and responded in different ways.  Description and link to company interviews:

  1. Workplace Training and Education: HVAC manufacturer
    Taco Comfort Solutions (Cranston, RI), CEO John Hazen White Jr, private company, 900 employees worldwide (500 domestic)
  2. Skills Mapping and Building Fundamental Skills: Advanced materials manufacturer
    Arconic (Pittsburgh, PA), VP of Global Communications Suzanne van de Raadt, 43,000 employees
  3. Employee Development Through 'Pay for Skills' Community College Program: Precision metal stampings manufacturer
    Batesville Tool and Die (Batesville, IN), 1,100 employees worldwide (400 at headquarters), HR Safety and Training Coordinator Lauren Mynsberge
  4. Identify and Develop Skills to Overcome Mismatch: Medical technology devices
    Cook Medical (Bloomington, IN), VP of Industry and Government Affairs - Cook Group Dan Peterson, 12,000 employees worldwide

Section 6

The role of employers in addressing the skills gap

While the responsibility for developing a skilled workforce is the responsibility of many parties, employers are on the front line. They must address the mismatch between skills that workers have and those that the employer needs today and in the future. A healthy collaboration between business, economic development and education can help.

Key findings from the 2018 Deloitte Insights and The Manufacturing Institute skills gap and future of work study

"The jobs are here, but where are the people? 

The talent shortage seems to be exacerbated by two factors. First, the US economy is currently in the midst of the second-longest expansion in history, and the manufacturing industry is part of this expansion. To support continued growth, based on our analysis, Deloitte expects the number of new jobs in manufacturing to accelerate and grow by 1.96 million workers by 2028.  Second, the manufacturing industry could face a demographic challenge. Despite the trend of delaying retirement—according to the most recent Gallup poll, the average age of retirement is now 66 years—more than 2.6 million baby boomers are expected to retire from manufacturing jobs over the next decade.5 And, more than half of the open jobs in 2028 (2.4 million) could remain unfilled because of the following top reasons identified by executives:

  • Shifting skill sets due to the introduction of advanced technologies
  • Misperceptions of manufacturing jobs
  • Retirement of baby boomers

2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute Skills Gap Study (22 page pdf)

The United States is experiencing near-historic low unemployment amid an extended period of economic expansion. The skills shortage that Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute have been tracking for the past 17 years continues to swell, threatening to impede the current growth in the US manufacturing industry. This fourth skills gap study explores the depths of today’s talent shortage in manufacturing, how jobs are changing due to technology and automation, and what measures manufacturers could take to solve today’s shortage while preparing their future workforce for success.

Table of Contents: Measuring the depths of the current skills shortage; Measuring the depths of the current skills shortage; Digital impact: How are skills shifting?; Approaches to patch the gap in the short term.

The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages (84 page pdf)

Society for Resource Management (SHRM), Jen Schramm, M.Phil., SHRM-SCP, SHRM manager of Workforce Trends and Forecasting program, and Tanya Mulvey, MAPP, SHRM researcher specializing in talent management and workforce skills, published 2016.

Key Findings

• HR professionals across industries are reporting a more challenging market for talent in 2016 compared with 2013. • The health and social assistance and manufacturing industries are the industries reporting the highest levels of recruiting difficulty. • HR professionals believe the reasons behind a more difficult recruiting environment include a low number of applicants, lack of the needed work experience among candidates, competition from other employers, candidates’ lack of technical skills and the local market not producing enough qualified candidates.

Other findings included:

  • The top basic skills shortages identified are writing in English, basic computer skills, spoken English language, reading comprehension and mathematics.The most commonly reported applied skills shortages are critical thinking/problem-solving, professionalism/ work ethic, leadership, written communications and teamwork/collaboration.
  • It is not uncommon for HR professionals to work without a training budget. Whereas 69% of HR professionals surveyed said their organization had a training budget over the last 12 months, almost one-third (31%) reported that their organization did not.
  • One-half of HR professionals reported that over the past 12 months their training budgets had remained the same. Meanwhile, 39% said training budgets had increased and 11% said they had decreased. 
  • Employees receive their training most often through conferences, seminars, workshops and professional organizations; via on-the-job training; or through webinars or other online training applications.
  • Organizations reported varying levels of use of the public workforce system (the network of federal, state and local programs, sometimes referred to as American Job Centers or One-Stop Centers, that function to support economic expansion and develop the talent of the U.S. workforce). Use of the public workforce system appeared to be associated with organization staff size, with HR professionals at the smallest organizations least likely to say that they had used the public workforce system.
  • Whereas few organizations reported that they provide registered apprenticeship programs in their organizations, larger organizations (those with 2,500 or more employees) were more likely to have them compared with smaller organizations.

6 Ways to Build a Cohesive Multigenerational Workforce: Prepare for the Future - Now

According to this 2019 whitepaper published by ToolingU-SME (an organization dedicated to manufacturing education), the current skills gap can be addressed through a strategy that takes into account today's multi-generational (5) workforce. By focusing on six specific actions, the authors argue that manufacturers will develop a more cohesive workforce and gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

"Employers Lead the Way to Close Skills Gap," Vermont Business (June 22, 2018). Discussed the formation of industry collaboratives to address talent pipeline building in a state which has 30,000 fewer 25-45 year old adults than 20 years ago.

Bridging the Skills Gap: Workforce Development is Everyone's Business, Association for Talent Development (2015, 45 page pdf)

This whitepaper discusses the changing nature of work and reasons behind the skills gap, and provides recommendations for talent development professionals on steps they can take to identify and close skills gaps in their organizations. This is the fifth whitepaper researched and written by the Association for Talent Development (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) about bridging the skills gap; the first whitepaper was published in 2003, and the most recent in 2012.

"There are many contributing factors to why and how the skills gap manifests. The changing nature of work, technology, and our knowledge economy have converged in a powerful way. Innovation, the pace of change, and the presence of multiple generations in the workforce are other significant contributors." (p.6 What Contributes to the Skills Gap)

Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century (53 page pdf)
Pathways to Prosperity Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education (February 2011)

Table of Contents: The Challenge; Why Our Current System Fails So Many Youth, And What Can Be Done to Fix It; Lessons From Abroad; The Road to An American Solution 

The Aging of the American Workforce: Challenges and Best Practices (26 page pdf)
The Manufacturing Institute (July 2019)

Section I of this report provides a review of relevant literature to address the scope of the issue and place it in the broader context of the aging American population and workforce. Section II uses survey results and information obtained in interviews to evaluate the degree to which manufacturing firms are aware of the sector’s aging workforce and the nature of the concerns that have risen as a result of this demographic change. Finally, Section III relies on insights obtained through interviews with industry leaders and context provided by the survey to share best practices that have enabled manufacturing firms to successfully navigate the aging of the workforce.

"Industry 4.0 Holds The Key To Closing The Manufacturing Industry's Skills Gap," Forbes, Lisa Caldwell (January 11, 2019)

Makes two key arguments:

  1. Far from exacerbating the skills gap, Industry 4.0 may actually hold the key to solving it

  2. Manufacturers should therefore act now to shape the way these Industry 4.0 jobs are created, positioned and filled.

Out of Inventory: Skills Shortage Threatens Growth for US Manufacturing (16 page pdf)
The Manufacturing Institute and Accenture joint 2014 Manufacturing Skills and Training Study

The severe shortage of manufacturing skills in the United States has the potential to impeded the trend of steady growth in US manufacturing. Accenture research confirms that manufacturers are having difficulty filling skilled and highly skilled manufacturing roles. Companies can maintain productivity and sustain profitability by building a talent supply chain with the needed skills to fuel growth, and then developing and retaining skilled talent over time.

Minding the Gap: Investing in a Skilled Manufacturing Workforce  (12 page pdf)
Report from summit convened by Jobs for the Future, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and the Manufacturing Institute, September 29 2015

“Advanced manufacturing is growing and thriving in the United States. Companies are in great need of reliable employees who can communicate well, effectively make decisions, and are interested in long-term careers with opportunity for advancement. Employers have identified a need for a more robust talent pipeline to narrow America’s skills gap….To address this important issue, [the author and others] convened higher education and business leaders with state labor officials and other experts for a summit called Minding the Gap: Investing in a Skilled Manufacturing Workforce” (p.1).

The Catapult Papers: Essays on the Future of Workforce Development - Getting to Next Generation Workforce Development

March 7, 2019 Forum hosted by The Boston Foundation:

Essays on Future of Workforce Development (complete set, 56 page pdf)
Paper 1: Next Generation Workforce Development Organizations for Our Time: How JVS Is Re-Tooling for a New Economy
Paper 2: Scaling Up: Lessons from the Front Lines
Paper 3: Not Just Any Job: How Next Generation Workforce Organizations Can Help Improve Job Quality for Workers and Competitiveness for Employers
Paper 4: Tapping the Untapped Workforce: How Next Generation Workforce Development Organizations Can Help Employers Recruit and Retain the Talent They Need

The Skills Gap: Threat or Opportunity?, Penn College of Technology (5 page pdf)

What should we focus on in order to develop and maintain a highly skilled, competitive workforce? This paper advances the argument that there is not one, but rather three key components to successfully overcoming the challenge. A healthy balance of each is the central to fully bridging the skills gap, while an over or under-reliance on any one part disrupts equilibrium, bringing on its own set of problems.

Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: Workforce Development Plan, Associated General Contractors of America (2015)

GC's Message:

  • Reform and Reinvigorate the Perkins Act
  • Encourage Private Funding for Craft Training Programs
  • Make Veteran Training and Hiring More Accessible
  • Encourage Partnerships Between Registered Apprenticeship Programs and Community Colleges
  • Expand Federal Apprenticeship Resources and Collect More Comprehensive Data on All Apprenticeship Programs

An Event-Focused Solution to Closing the Skills Gap (March 2019)

To build awareness about careers in residential construction and design, the 2019 National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) conference program included local high school students. It is a model for others to consider. The NKBA #NextUp program was held in conjunction with the association's February 2019 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas. One-hundred 150 students participated in the half-day event.

Bridging the Skills GapTraining Magazine

Employers want certain skills. Employees don’t have them. Why? And what can organizations and Training, employees, and the educational system do to eliminate the disconnect?  Article Author: Lorri Freifeld

Preparing for the Next Generation: A guide to the modern manufacturing employee
PSI Services LLC, Authors:  Rose Keith, Cassandra Walter, and Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D.

As expected, when a new generation replaces its predecessor, workplaces will change. As more millennials become leaders and managers in their organizations, we should expect a shift in values, motivators, and expectations. Be prepared to attract, manage, and collaborate with millennials in manufacturing using this guide.

Closing the skills gap: Creating workforce-development programs that work for everyone 
McKinsey & Company Social Sector Practice article by Martha Laboissiere and Mona Mourshed (February 2017)

“The land of opportunity”—that is the promise of the United States. And one of the reasons the country has been able to deliver on that promise is that it has been able to develop the talent it needs to create wealth and to adapt to ever-changing economic realities. But there are concerns that the United States can and should be doing better. This will require policies and actions on many fronts, for example on trade, taxation, regulation, education, and fiscal and monetary policy. In this article, we focus on a single subject: preparing people without college degrees for jobs with promising career paths. The need, for both business and society, is clear.

"Closing the Skills Gap: America must get serious about worker training—and retraining—to stay competitive,"
City Journal, by Milton Ezrati Economy, finance, and budgets (July 31, 2018)

Inadequate worker training, the author argues, is responsible for much of the current skilled labor shortfall.  As a result, the premium for skill continues to grow. The problem shows up clearly in the widening wage gap for skilled work, which extends beyond the well-documented distinction between the earnings of the college-educated and those with only a high school diploma or less. 

"2017 May be Tipping Point for Skilled Labor Shortage"
Production Machining, by Todd Palmer, President, Diversified Industrial Staffing (1/15/2017)

Through the use of technology and improved learning techniques, employers now have cost-effective educational options that were not available 15 years ago. For those under-skilled workers who are seeking a better career path, there is a lack of training provided by manufacturers for entry-level workers. 

State Responses to the Skills Gap: Successful Policies Advancing Industry Credentials and Manufacturing Education
The Manufacturing Institute (November 2014), 36 pages

Reports on policy innovations in five areas to make CTE and STEM careers and education pathways more attractive to students, (cites these specific states): 1) Industry Credentials (CO, FL, LA, NC); 2) Industry Partnerships (CA, IN. KS, ND, OH, SC, WI); 3) Credit Articulation (OK, WA); 4) Dual Enrollment (KS, NC, WI); 5) Comprehensive State Strategies (IL, OR, TN)

State initiatives to watch (2015): IA, GA, LA, NC, OH, VA

States mentioned: California (PG&E example), Colorado, Florida (High-Quality Remediation), Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky (Kentucky Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education/KY FAME and Toyota Motor Manufacturing example), Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (San Antonio Manufacturers Association/Alamo Colleges/Alamo Academies example), Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin

"Trump Signs Bill to Close Skills Gap: New legislation improves vocational education, supporting technical careers,"
The Epoch Times, Emil Akan (updated November 16, 2018)

In July 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law much needed legislation supported by employers, educators, and lawmakers. The bipartisan legislation brings the U.S. education system into better alignment with the nation’s unmet skilled workforce needs. The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which passed both the House and Senate unanimously, reforms the American career, technical, and vocational education system for the first time since 2006.