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The manufacturing industry of a country is directly proportional to its gross domestic product (GDP). In the U.S., every dollar spent on manufacturing adds $1.32 to the economy, and the industry supports more than 17 million workers, reports the Deloitte University Press. Meanwhile, the U.S. manufacturing industry faces a serious crisis, the skills gap. More than 3.5 million jobs are at stake over the next decade, and 2.7 million manufacturing workers are expected to retire as well. Unfortunately, the skills gap only appears to be growing worse, but it is creating several groundbreaking manufacturing opportunities.  

1. Manufacturers Can Re-evaluate Factory Processes.  

Since the skills gap reflects changes in how manufacturers operate, it represents the opportunity for manufacturers to re-evaluate their current factory processes, including a wide, diverse group of job positions, explains ThomasNet. Manufacturers must think about new ways to reduce overhead and eliminate downtime in their factories, such as creating proactive maintenance plans and better allocation of resources. Therefore, manufacturers will need to add more technology to their factories.  

2. An Infusion of Technology Will Bring Manufacturing Opportunities to Millennials

Technology is also key to bringing millennials into the equation. Millennials have grown up in an era of digital advancements, including smartphones and advanced computer skills. In addition, millennials are looking for positions that build upon their existing use of digital devices, so manufacturers could take advantage of this opportunity by simply recruiting millennials with this goal in mind. 

For example, companies can implement new programs and create new resources that meet the demands of millennials. According to Scott Stone of Manufacturing Business Technologymillennials are not interested in filling the manufacturing skill slots. But, manufacturers could change that tune by giving millennials something workplaces are barely starting to embrace, using personal devices for work.  

This concept is further seen in companies providing subsidies or additional benefits to employees that bring their own devices. This also helps to reduce overhead costs for these respective companies and encourages millennials to become a part of the manufacturing industry.  

3. Robotics and Automation Will Reduce Physical Demands on New Manufacturing Workers.  

Similar to adding technology on the plant floor, robotics and automation will become a central point in taking advantage of the skills gap. Face the fact; no one wants to be physically exhausted from work, especially when technology is available to move large pallets or materials just by lifting a finger. Robotics will also combine the tech-savvy demands of millennials with these less physically-demanding roles.  

Furthermore, robotics and automated systems inherently drive optimization in manufacturing, and they becoming more readily available to manufacturers of any size. In fact, worldwide spending on robotics is expected to exceed $67 billion in 2025, and manufacturing will need to grow by a similar percentage (around 450 percent) to reach its $24.4 billion evaluation as well. Therefore, manufacturers should embrace automation and robotics in the hope of achieving this strong growth.  

4. Manufacturers Have a Vested Interest in Partnering With Schools. 

Manufacturers must find ways to recruit new workers, develop skills and make people more aware of what constitutes a manufacturing job today. This accomplishment is made possible primarily by manufacturers working directly with schools to foster greater favor of the industry in the next generation. According to Katie Mohr of, manufacturers must foster business-education collaboration with students still in school, not just college students in vocational programs.  

For example, manufacturers have donated “state-of-the-art equipment to give students [a] hands-on learning experience.” This translates directly into renewed interest in manufacturing among students. Meanwhile, manufacturers are working with schools to develop entry-level vocational programs that begin before students ever graduate high school. Of course, the same manufacturers are already working with vocational schools for college-level students, but the possibilities are even greater when accessing students who have yet to determine their career aspirations.  

5. Manufacturers Will Be Forced to Change Manufacturing Stereotypes. 

The biggest opportunity for manufacturers is how they will change manufacturing stereotypes. Most people tend to keep the movies’ impressions of manufacturing jobs alive. The workers are dirty, filthy and worked to the bone. In reality, modern manufacturing is more akin to working an advanced laboratory setting with robotic analysis controlling advanced computer systems via the Internet of Things (IoT) and innovation throughout operations.  

In addition, the stereotype of mustache-twirling villain-supervisors of the past must be replaced by people who want to see students and young people enter the industry. This may even include paying for vocational training or providing training on-site, as seen with members of the military, explains Forbes magazine.  

The Big Picture. 

The manufacturing industry must evolve in the wake of the digital age. Today’s skilled workers are finite, and more of them are retiring every year. If manufacturers do not take advantage of the manufacturing opportunities created by the skills gap, they will be forced out of business. However, taking advantage of these manufacturing opportunities can catalyze the greatest reinvigoration of the manufacturing industry since the Industrial Revolution, and they must take action now to prevent these manufacturing opportunities from being lost forever.