How to Close the Skills Gap in the Manufacturing Industry

Ioana Marinescu

We all know examples of employers who have recruiting difficulties – you may be experiencing such difficulties yourself. To find out how prevalent these recruitment difficulties are, economists have surveyed a representative sample of manufacturing establishments. They asked plant managers to answer questions about recruitment and the skills they are seeking in a worker.

A Quarter of Manufacturing Establishments Have Hiring Difficulties

On average, establishments were able to fill positions within one and a half months. Therefore, one sign of hiring difficulties is having an unfilled vacancy for three months or more. Twenty-four percent of establishments had at least one vacancy unfilled for three months or more.

Requiring Advanced Levels of Math and Reading Skills Predicts Hiring Difficulties

As one could expect, requiring higher levels of skills can make it harder to hire. Establishments that require advanced math and reading skills increase their chance of having a vacancy that goes unfilled for three months or more by 10 percent. Surprisingly, requiring advanced computer skills does not lead to greater recruitment difficulties.

Requiring Unique Skills Also Predicts Hiring Difficulties

Some manufacturing plants require unique skills that other plants in the area do not require. These plants have an 8 percent higher chance of seeing an unfilled vacancy for three months or more.

How to Identify Workers with the Right Skills

In order to find qualified workers, hiring managers or recruiters could use CareerBuilder Search. The database uses semantic search to apply related terms – including skills, keywords and job titles – to each term searched. Using this search technology allows users to uncover talent with unique skills that traditional keyword searches may miss. Also, employers can hire workers with similar skills and train them to learn the unique skills demanded by the plant. Hiring managers should also consider relocation packages to make it easier for people with the right skills to move to their area.

Get tips on how to source positions in manufacturing

Ioana Marinescu is an assistant professor in economics at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Her research focuses on understanding labor markets. She has been collaborating on data and research projects with CareerBuilder and she is especially interested in how to get the right people to work in the right jobs. You can follow her on twitter @mioana and check out her research on her website,


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