3 Ways Manufacturers Can Overcome the Skills Shortage during the Pandemic

October 9, 2020 - minute read

In the COVID-19 era, one Baby Boomer retires from manufacturing every eight seconds, according to the National Association of Manufacturing. The pandemic has amplified the skills shortage the industry was already bracing for, with more than one-quarter of the workforce set to retire over the next decade. Recruiting is challenging for manufacturers at the best of times. How can they up their talent acquisition efforts, even as COVID-19 upends everything else?

When factories were forced into shutdown mode, some older workers who were laid-off and furloughed considered it a taste of early retirement.

As a result, manufacturers that were working to ensure the continuation of their collective factory knowledge found those plans disrupted. Even worse, those who hadn’t yet put plans in place may have lost their chance.  

So, between the pandemic and the accelerating stream of retiring workers, what can manufacturers do to bridge the ever-widening skills gap? Fortunately, there are a number of actions they can take, including our top three solutions. 

1. Offer Boomers a Transitional Retirement Program

While the pandemic may have accelerated some workers’ departures, it’s changed the outlook of others. According to a new survey by Voya Financial, 59% of currently-employed Baby Boomers plan to work into retirement as a result of COVID, driven by the need to prepare for unexpected costs and concern that market volatility will negatively impact their retirement funds.

Offering older workers transitional retirement programs can appeal to their desire to continue earning wages, while allowing manufacturers to implement mentoring and training programs that enable older workers to share their expertise pre-retirement.

We already know that part-time hours and job-sharing appeal to workers of all ages—and may particularly appeal to almost-seniors. Furthermore, Boomers who are not yet 65 (and therefore ineligible for Medicare) may be particularly motivated to stay employed for health insurance benefits.    

Meanwhile, younger workers will benefit from their experience and advance their skills, helping factories retain hard-earned, plant-specific knowledge. 

2. Update Your Recruiting Efforts

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry has a PR problem. According to a Deloitte survey, fewer than half of all Americans believe that manufacturing careers are interesting, stable and safe. As a result, some manufacturers are retooling their brand, developing an active social media presence and updated their websites—while heavily promoting every investment in new technologies.

Others are creating a talent pipeline, partnering with local community colleges and trade schools to attract students. Work study programs, apprenticeships, and community outreach not only create relationships with up-and-coming workers but can accelerate their skill development.

On the subject of technology: if your factory isn’t taking advantage of state-of-the-art applicant tracking software, you’re missing out. The best recruiting software not only features a mobile-friendly application process, but allows recruiters to post to all the popular job boards simultaneously. On the back end, great software generates key HR analytics that can identify where the best new hires are coming from, helping manufacturers to recruit more effectively.  

3. Update Your Training Program


According to a recent EPAY Systems survey, 55% of manufacturers have identified cross-training as an immediate priority, while 41% plan to invest in upskilling programs. This is a great way to not only enrich the skills of the workforce, but attract younger workers who are eager for advancement. However, thanks to COVID, extensive face-to-face training is no longer a viable mainstay.

That’s why proactive manufacturers are adopting online learning management systems, which enable workers to engage in training anywhere, from any device. They allow employers to upload all their existing training media and select from hundreds of professionally-designed courses. Furthermore, the software automatically tracks who has completed and passed their coursework—or not—easing the training management burden.

Think online learning won’t be as effective as classroom training? Think again. Studies have shown that workers retain more information through online learning programs, because they can control the pace of their learning.

How Technology Can Help

Manufacturers that are serious about filling the skills gap created by retiring workers need to get serious about HR technology, too. After all, you can’t expect to attract new, cutting-edge workers with an outdated recruiting system—or upskill your workforce with obsolete training methods.

EPAY’s HCM system is designed to help manufacturers attract, manage and optimize their workforce. From our cutting-edge ATS system and online learning management system…to comprehensive HR analytics and an extensive COVID-19 toolbox, we can help you combat your skills shortage. Yes, even now—see how.

Filed Under: Applicant Tracking & Hiring Manufacturing Learning and Development HR Management