When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, employers in every sector experienced a phenomenon that manufacturers had been dealing with for many years: a shortage of skilled workers. Most people vividly remember “CLOSED” signs adorning windows due to staffing shortages.
While we’re a ways past the pandemic now, many businesses continue to experience skilled labor shortages. This is especially true in the manufacturing sector, where the demand for highly-skilled workers continues to outpace supply. Today, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing positions remain unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers, a situation known commonly as the “skills gap.”
The proliferation of advanced automation technologies is one factor responsible for the ongoing skills gap. As more and more manufacturers embrace new technologies to improve productivity and efficiency, they need more highly-skilled workers to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair these advanced technologies.
While there appears to be no easy solution to the skills gap in manufacturing, it’s clear that the problem needs to be addressed on multiple fronts. How can workers obtain the skills they need? How do educators prepare the next generation of workers? How can manufacturers effectively train workers to give them the skills they need to succeed? In this article, we’ll take a look at five reasons why manufacturers should invest in worker training.
To Train or not to Train? — That is the Question
While many manufacturers seek to hire new workers who already possess the skills they need, another obvious solution is to teach current workers the skills they lack. However, some manufacturers remain hesitant to invest in training their employees. Why is that?
The answer is a popular corporate dilemma that can be summed up — and solved — with two questions. The first question is one manufacturers reluctant to train their employees frequently ask: “What if we train them and then they leave?”
This question reveals the commonly-held fear that spending money on training employees will only equip them to find a better job elsewhere. However, the solution can be found in a second question that manufacturers should be asking instead: “What if we don’t train them…and they stay?”
Losing employees to better opportunities is frustrating, but as you’ll learn in a bit, investing in worker training actually improves retention rates. More importantly, however, can your company withstand the negative impact of long-term employees who do not possess the skills they need to succeed? Let’s take a closer look at five major benefits of upskilling workers.
Training Improves Engagement
Do your workers experience challenges that help them grow and keep them on their toes? Or are they bored to tears? It shouldn’t surprise anyone that bored workers with no chance of self-improvement or upward mobility are among the first to look for greener pastures.
According to a Startup Stockpile article, “providing career advancement opportunities and certifications…boost a feeling of value in your employees. They prove that your company is committed to helping its staff improve skills and advance their careers. In turn, your employees will be happier and more engaged.”
A University of Massachusetts Global article agrees, noting that “[a] recent survey of more than 2,000 employees reveals organizations that offer professional development opportunities have employees who are 15 percent more engaged in their work.”
Upskilling Improves Retention
Why does employee engagement matter? Engaged employees “will be satisfied with their current roles and remain loyal to your organization.” In fact, “employees satisfied with their careers are 59% less likely to look for a job in the next 12 months.” That’s a huge boost to retention efforts.
The Better Buys study referenced above found that “organizations that offer professional development opportunities…see 34 percent higher retention rates than those that don’t offer similar opportunities.”
Likewise, a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article notes that “[l]earning and development (L&D) programs can be an appealing benefit. In fact, skills training is one of the top perks younger workers look for in a new job, according to a 2021 Gallup survey conducted on behalf of Amazon.”
Return on Investment in Worker Training is High
Training workers to improve their skills seems like a no-brainer, but like so many other things that seem obvious, the final decision often comes down to money. The cost to train workers — in terms of instructors, training equipment, curriculum, and time away from normal job duties — can be calculated quickly and easily.
The monetary benefit of that training is more nebulous. Will the employer see a return on its investment? If so, how significant will that return be? What do the numbers show over time when everything is boiled down to dollars and cents?
“The Cigna Corporation, for example, provided employees with millions of dollars in tuition assistance. An analysis of their educational benefits program from 2012 to 2014 revealed a 129 percent return on investment as a result of avoided talent management costs.”
That’s a significant positive return on investment. Plus, it highlights an important fact that often gets overlooked: “Hiring and onboarding new candidates can be costly. According to a study, hiring an employee costs an average of $7,645. Precisely because of that, employers should focus on retaining top performers.”
Retaining talented workers and hiring from within rather than recruiting new workers helps to reduce recruiting and onboarding expenses. Moreover, increasing retention improves overall productivity by avoiding the long delays that occur when filling a position (often two months or more) combined with the time it takes for a new employee to achieve full productivity (up to six months or more).
A Training Culture Facilitates Recruitment
Of course, despite their best efforts to retain talented workers and train others to add key skills, manufacturers will still find themselves needing to recruit new talent from time to time. At these times, a robust training program can still be essential.
For example, “[n]early half of human resources professionals surveyed by SHRM indicate that increased efforts to offer training and development opportunities to existing employees has become the most effective recruiting strategy for hard-to-fill positions within their organizations.”
“[A]ccording to a 2021 Gallup survey conducted on behalf of Amazon…66 percent of workers ages 18-24 ranked learning new skills as the third-most important perk when evaluating new job opportunities, behind only health insurance and disability benefits.” That’s why “learning and development can make a significant impact on…attraction of new hires.”
Skills are the New Focus
In recent years, more and more manufacturers have moved toward a skills-based hiring model, reducing the requirements for advanced degrees and instead focusing on the relevant hands-on skills needed to succeed in the workplace.
For example, according to a Harvard Business Review article, “[i]n evaluating job applicants, employers are suspending the use of degree completion as a proxy and instead now favor hiring on the basis of demonstrated skills and competencies. This shift to skills-based hiring will open opportunities to a large population of potential employees who in recent years have often been excluded from consideration because of degree inflation.”
A Deloitte report highlights the evolving role of alternative credentialing:
“Alternative credentialing can encourage reskilling amid rapidly evolving technology. The shrinking shelf-life of digital skills requires continuous reskilling. Employers desire tracking and verification of those skills. As a result, the job market increasingly calls on training providers and academic institutions to offer “credentialized” records of learning and mastery. Rather than relying heavily on two- and four-year degrees, skill-specific microcredentials, digital badges, or certificates specify the exact technologies an applicant has mastered.”
Why are Industry-Standard Certifications Important?
Manufacturers have jobs to fill. Those jobs require particular skills. Too few current and prospective workers possess the necessary skills. The answer to this ongoing conundrum seems glaringly obvious: current and future workers need proper technical training.
Industry-standard certifications play an increasingly important role in today’s workplace, and these certifications can provide a blueprint for employers to build a successful training program. Not associated with any particular educational institution and developed in conjunction with industry partners, these certifications define objective standards regarding the knowledge and skills required to succeed in industry.
Industrial certifications give students and current workers validation and documentation of the marketable skills and knowledge they’ve obtained. They also provide an objective assessment for employers that a person has the skills necessary for a particular job. Certifications also provide guidance to educational institutions to ensure that curriculum teaches the knowledge and skills industry needs.
Whether a manufacturer hires workers with industry-standard certifications or institutes a training program that helps upskill workers to obtain certifications, promoting a company culture of continually acquiring new skills has multiple benefits that work together to improve a company’s workforce.
No Need to Reinvent the Wheel
If you’re a manufacturer looking to upskill your workers, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. All you need to do is partner with a proven technical education expert like Amatrol. Amatrol offers a wide variety of technical training equipment with comprehensive eLearning curriculum and free instructor training that will create a pathway for your workers to acquire the skills they need to earn industry-standard certifications proving they have the skills to succeed in the workplace.
Amatrol offers technical training in a wide variety of subject matter areas from basics like electrical, mechanical, and safety to more advanced areas like HVACR and automation. Let’s take a quick look at just a few of the solutions Amatrol offers that lead to industry-standard certifications in different areas:
Front Line Manufacturing Production Workers
Front line manufacturing production workers need skills in areas such as safety; quality practices and measurement; manufacturing processes and production; and maintenance awareness. The industry-standard certification that assesses and certifies these important skills is the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council’s (MSSC) Certified Production Technician 4.0 (CPT 4.0) certification.
Workers can also demonstrate the hands-on skills they’ve acquired by pursuing MSSC’s Certified Production Technician+ Skill Boss Manufacturing (CPT+) certification. The CPT+ certification builds upon the CPT 4.0 certification by adding hands-on skills verification using Skill Boss Manufacturing, a training and assessment device developed by Amatrol.
Supply Chain Workers
Supply chain automation technicians must possess a wide range of specialized skills in areas like electrical, electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, mechanical, and safety. They must also be skilled problem solvers who can communicate and work well as part of a team.
MSSC partnered with Amatrol, the National Center for Supply Chain Automation (NCSCA), and a variety of supply chain industry leaders to develop the Certified Technician — Supply Chain Automation (CT-SCA) certification, which focuses on equipment maintenance, equipment repair, and network repair.
To help teach and assess the hands-on skills necessary for the CT-SCA certification, Amatrol designed and developed Skill Boss Logistics, a working automated sortation system with real industrial components used in supply chain facilities, including PLCs, VFDs, electric motors, belt and chain drives, conveyors, barcode scanners, electronic sensors, and electro-pneumatic sorters.
Smart Automation Technicians
Known by names such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, and Smart Factory, advanced Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are having a massive impact on industrial efficiency and productivity.
The essence of Industry 4.0 is the combination of cyber-physical systems, automation, and the IoT to create a Smart Factory environment. Imagine a factory in which robots and self-driving vehicles communicate with each other and the workers overseeing them to report on a wide variety of information, such as throughput, cycle times, mechanical breakdowns, and predictive maintenance.
Smart sensors and smart devices generate enormous amount of real-time data that can be used not only to monitor current production status but also to predict future maintenance needs. These technologies require highly-skilled workers who can turn all that data into useful information that can transform productivity and efficiency.
The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) recognized the need for industry-standard certifications that focus on “connected systems” skills that address the integration of Industry 4.0 technology into advanced manufacturing processes. SACA is a non-profit certification organization with member schools in more than 30 states and industry members like Rockwell Automation.
SACA’s industrial certifications feature a modular structure to fit a wide range of individual needs, industries, and educational environments. SACA offers certifications in three categories: Associate, Specialist, and Professional. Each certification is stackable, allowing individuals to earn multiple certifications to document their particular skills.
Let Amatrol Help You Prepare Your Workers to Earn Certifications
With over 30 years of experience, Amatrol remains the world’s leader in technical education training systems and eLearning curriculum. Amatrol recognizes the importance of industry-standard certifications and offers programs that support certifications from both MSSC and SACA.
Consult with an expert at Amatrol today to learn how you can take your training program to the next level by offering your workers the chance to earn industry-standard certifications that will set them up for success in the workplace.
About Duane Bolin
Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer in the technical training solutions market.