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As more baby boomers retire each year and millennials take up the bulk of the workforce, facility managers will likely encounter a skills gap. Understanding all of the factors driving this challenge will help stakeholders develop a strategic plan for overcoming this growing challenge.

Understanding the shrinking industrial talent pool

In 2015, Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute published a comprehensive study of the manufacturing-industry skills gap. Specifically, the report looked ahead to 2025, when the gap is anticipated to be much wider than it is today. In fact, the report predicted approximately 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed over the next decade, but 2 million are expected to go unfilled.

A 2018 report from the training experts at RedVector corroborated these findings, noting that 51.96 percent of surveyed facility managers name the recruitment and retention of skilled employees as a major area of concern. Further, over a third of respondents said budgeting for training had been a challenge in 2017.

The Deloitte report explained that factors contributing the skills gap include projected economic expansion, loss of knowledge due to worker movement, lack of STEM skills among new entrants to the workforce, and cultural stigma around working in the manufacturing industry. The No.1 reason for such a large number of open positions, however, is the average age of skilled employees; approximately 2.7 million manufacturing jobs will open up as a result of workforce retirement. The Pew Research Center supports this claim, estimating 10,000 baby boomers will reach retirement age every day between 2010 and 2029.

This evidence shows that, for many organizations, it isn’t a matter of if a skills gap will impact operations, but when.

A hybrid approach to skills training incorporates mentorship and traditional classroom learning.A hybrid approach to skills training incorporates mentorship and traditional classroom learning.

Training workers for new roles

Industrial organizations with experienced employees nearing retirement age should consider how they will prevent important knowledge from leaving the business. Starting a mentorship program in which older employees are paired with new hires is one example of how organizations can ensure a seamless transfer of knowledge. Supplemented with regular training programs, younger employees can get up to speed faster and begin to develop their own skill sets on the job.

“10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day.”

The learning management systems experts at MATRIX recommended a hybrid training program which utilizes senior staff as mentors while simultaneously leveraging big data solutions to capture learning moments. This systematic approach creates additional transparency into the state of the organization’s skills training so managers can pinpoint challenge areas early and work to address them at scale.

Pairing baby boomer and millennials in a work setting can be a challenge in itself, however. Members of the two groups often have differing world views as a result of drastically different upbringings. While boomers have had to adapt to the digital revolution, millennials grew up with connected technologies. Talent management expert Tom Gimbel, writing in Fortune magazine, suggested that boomer/millennial mentorship programs work best when there’s a dialogue. Rather than attempting to download all of the mentor’s knowledge into the mentee’s brain, both parties should come out of the program having learned something. Boomers can teach millennials about processes, workflows and best practices while millennials can reciprocate with technical knowledge.

Hiring millennials to replace boomers

With each passing year, it will be harder for organizations to find experienced boomers to mentor incoming millennials, not to mention the eldest members of Gen Z who are just beginning to enter the workforce. To address this challenge, facility managers will have to be strategic with their implementation of new training programs.

Adopting new technology solutions is one way to mitigate knowledge loss. For example, if retiring employees are skilled at performing a task one way, but new technology has since made that task easier, or automated, it may be more efficient to replace the process itself. For instance, moving from a visual asset inspection strategy to a cutting edge ultrasound-driven program could improve performance metrics in a way that is intuitive to younger workers.

To learn more about upgrading your facility’s condition monitoring strategy for a new generation of workers, check out our product catalog today.