Skip to main content
Affordable Employee Training Exclusively for NJBIA Members LEARN MORE

The U.S. manufacturing industry could require some 3.8 million jobs to be filled within the next decade, according to a study released Wednesday by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers’ nonprofit workforce development and education affiliate. 

The report, Taking Charge: Manufacturers Support Growth with Active Workforce Strategies, found that manufacturing in the U.S. has emerged from the global pandemic on strong footing and is likely to continue to grow in years ahead as companies work to meet evolving customer demands, de-risk their supply chains, and leverage government incentives and policies. 

However, despite substantial growth in the sector, U.S. manufacturing faces a skills gap and tight labor market. Without significant changes, more than 5 in 10, or 1.9 million, of these jobs could go unfilled if workforce challenges are not addressed through 2033, the report said. 

Workforce challenges are among the top concerns for U.S. manufacturers. NAM’s 2024 Q1 Outlook survey underscored this fact, with 65% of respondents saying that attracting and retaining talent is their primary business challenge. 

The demand for digital skills is accelerating as operations and products become more complex and information from smart-connected devices and systems needs to be integrated and analyzed. The analysis by Deloitte and NAM’s Manufacturing Institute’s (MI) shows that, in the last five years, there has been a 75% increase in demand for simulation and simulation software skills, sought mostly for technology-enabled production or testing roles. 

Roles like statisticians, data scientists, engineers, logisticians, computer and information systems managers, software developers, and industrial maintenance technicians are likely to grow at the fastest pace over the next 10 years. For production roles, the fastest growing will likely to be those that require higher-level skill sets like semiconductor processing technicians, machinists, first-line supervisors, welders, and electronics and electromechanical assemblers. 

“The manufacturing industry is facing exponential opportunity, yet still should prioritize strategies that will address the skills and applicant gap, especially as the acceleration of digital skills-based jobs continues,” said John Coykendall, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and vice chair, U.S. industrial products and construction leader. 

“Developing talent — both from within the existing employee base and those newly entering the workforce — is important to keeping up with the pace of continued innovation,” Coykendall said. “Companies who invest in upskilling the workforce through training, technology and policies that meet employee expectations are well-positioned for future growth.” 

Manufacturers are going beyond the existing talent pipeline to find the workers they need. More than 9 in 10 surveyed said they are forming at least one partnership to improve job attraction and retention, and on average, they are partnering with four or more. The top five partnership types among respondents are with: technical colleges (73%), industry associations (58%), universities (48%), state and regional economic development agencies (47%), and K-12 schools (44%). 

Many partnerships are geared towards building, leveraging and supporting training programs — helping address the needs to develop new talent. Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed in research by Deloitte and the MI indicated that apprenticeships, work studies, or internships at manufacturing companies would be the most effective way to increase interest in manufacturing as a career choice. 

“Manufacturers recognize that the workforce is evolving,” said Carolyn Lee, president and executive director of The Manufacturing Institute. “Pandemic-driven shifts have already created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and now we are seeing increased demand for digital skills that need to be met or risk further widening of the talent gap.  

“Companies must prioritize technology, training and talent development, and the investments that are driving growth will also require the industry to build out a talent ecosystem,” Lee said. “With investments in partnerships, apprenticeships, and education, and prioritizing a more diverse and inclusive workforce, a whole host of new talent will be on the factory floor and driving the next wave of growth.” 

The report’s findings are based on an online survey of more than 200 U.S. manufacturers, interviews with senior executives from manufacturing organizations of all sizes and across all sectors, extensive analysis of secondary data on labor supply and demand, and analysis from Deloitte’s economic team. Go to Deloitte’s website here to read the entire report.