RESTON, VA. — Over the next decade, 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed, and 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap, according to a report by the Manufacturing Institute. Eighty-two per cent of manufacturing executives believe the skills gap will impact their ability to meet consumer demand. 

More than three-quarters of U.S. bakery businesses say there is a serious shortage of engineering and maintenance staff, according to a new study that also found demand for production and R.&D. workers is expected to soar in the next 10 years.

What can you do as a manufacturer to address the skills shortage and ensure you are staffed for the future?

Recruit women

For the most part, manufacturing employees are male. According to a study from Deloitte produced for the Manufacturing Institute about women in manufacturing, only about 29% of manufacturing employees are female. However, women make up 47% of the total U.S. workforce.  

Why aren’t women working in manufacturing? A lack of awareness constitutes one major reason. People do not realize that modern manufacturing provides challenging, fulfilling and well-paying careers with the opportunity for advancement. Women in manufacturing are an untapped talent pool and could make a huge impact on closing the skills gap.

To attract more female staff to manufacturing, PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, convenes the Packaging and Processing Women’s Leadership Network (PPWLN). PPWLN holds programs at Pack Expo trade shows to highlight the contributions of women in manufacturing, illuminate career paths and provide networking opportunities.

Train for technology

The baking and snack industry is becoming progressively more tech-driven. Unfortunately, a sizable chunk of those entering the manufacturing workforce have not been trained to handle this newer equipment.

American manufacturers also lack apprenticeships, one common way that knowledge is transferred to new employees. Certification programs like PMMI’s Mechatronics Certification  provides details on what skills are needed, partners with schools across North America to teach these skills and administers tests to ensure candidates have the needed skills, knowledge and ability to contribute to the manufacturing workforce. Employers can also use these certifications as a tool to advance their existing workforce. 

Shine light on opportunities

As blue-collar hero Mike Rowe has repeated with gusto in recent years, not all successful careers are associated with four-year college degrees –– and especially not careers in manufacturing. Often the manufacturing trades require specialized technical skills that a traditional college course might not supply.

Convincing the next generation of workers to venture into manufacturing, however, is not so simple. The vast majority of adults (71%) don’t see manufacturing as a high-tech career choice, according to a survey conducted by ORC International. And 33% do not see a career in manufacturing as high-paying, although the facts dispel this perception. An entry-level technician can earn upward of $75,000 a year straight out of a two-year vocational school.

Working with local middle and high schools, as well as two-year technical colleges to educate professors, parents and students about the opportunities at your operation can go a long way to attracting top talent to your plant. By making benefits like pay and the use of emerging tech in manufacturing more well known, a business can help to dramatically shift manufacturing’s image. PMMI U’s Connection program is helping with this by traveling to job fairs across North America to educate students about the opportunities in manufacturing.

Packaging professionals in the baking and snack food industry can engage with the next-generation workforce at Pack Expo International 2018, being held October 14-17 in Chicago. More 900 packaging and processing students will attend the show to engage with more than 50,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors. New this year, CareerLink at Pack Expo will enable consumer packaged goods companies to sign up  for a time slot to meet face to face with students and veterans seeking careers in this industry. 

To register and learn more, visit