Surveys show business up for manufacturers, but shortage of skilled workers is big obstacle


There's no shortage of surveys that attempt to take the pulse of the manufacturing industry sector, and the results show one major concern that all respondents have in common: lack of available, skilled, trained and experienced people to fill the myriad job openings in today's manufacturing environment. Two recent surveys reveal what manufacturers are up against.

The good news from the annual ThomasNet Survey ( is that North America's manufacturing sector is on an upward trajectory. The bad news is that a shortage of young talent, compounded by Baby Boomers' negative perception about Millennials, could impact its continued expansion.

The results from the survey of nearly 500 product and custom manufacturers, released this week, shows continued growth for this sector. Companies are hiring, increasing production capacity, and investing for more growth to come. More than half (58%) grew in 2013, and 63% expect even more gains by the end of 2014, said ThomasNet.

There are plenty of positive indicators including manufacturers getting more business from existing markets, and their average account values are rising. Nearly eight out of 10 (76%) are now selling overseas, and one-third expect that business to increase. In anticipation of what's ahead, they're investing in capital equipment, optimizing operations, upgrading their facilities and retraining their people. More than half (52%) expect to add staff in the next several months, up from the 42% who planned to hire last year. Respondents' companies are looking for trained, experienced people - manufacturing/production management, line workers, skilled trade workers and engineers - to keep up with current and future demand.
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