An Answer for the Skilled Labor Shortage in Manufacturing

Tooling U-SME introduced a new industry resource, Competency Framework, to address the labor gap in manufacturing. 

It’s time to address the elephant in the room – there is a skilled labor shortage that’s shaking the foundation of the entire manufacturing industry in America. Shops have brought in robots and automation equipment, but they are coming to terms with the fact that you cannot replace a human being.

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Recognizing that a company’s access to skilled workers is critical for growing its business, Tooling U-SME, introduced a new industry resource — Competency Framework.

The next generation shows little interest in manufacturing careers and as workers retire, it creates an aperture in the labor force that cannot be fixed without serious consideration.

According to Jeannine Kunz, managing director of workforce and education for SME, “Nine out of 10 manufacturers are struggling to find the skilled workers they need, yet more than half don’t have a plan to address this crisis today, much less into the future.”

Looking into the future, this manufacturing albatross faces serious repercussions. In five years, it’s projected that the United States will fall behind China, India, Brazil, and Germany due to its lack of talented workers, trade, and corresponding costs.

A 2013 study from The Boston Consulting Group says, “By understanding the magnitude of the challenge and investing now to cultivate the next generation of professionals, all stakeholders can ensure that a skills crunch won’t derail the U.S. manufacturing resurgence.”

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Tooling U-SME (Cleveland, OH) has come up with a solution by introducing a new industry resource called Competency Framework. This new tool allows companies to combat the increasing talent shortage and achieve stronger performance from their workforce while providing clear development pathways and career growth opportunities for their employees.

The Competency Framework, created by experts from both manufacturing and academia, features a comprehensive series of competency models in nine manufacturing functional areas. The areas include Manufacturing Awareness, Stamping Forming & Fabricating, Maintenance, Engineering, Machining, Composites Processing, Welding, Plastics Processing, and Assembly/Final Stage Processes.

The tool is made up of more than 60 defined job role competency models, each outlining knowledge and skill objectives for job roles in production, technician, lead technician/technologist and engineer levels. Kunz says, “To help companies move forward in developing their workforce, we created our model to tie directly to business goals by diving deep into the knowledge and skill objectives for job roles, from lathe operators to engineers, as a way to build an organization of high performers.”

Utilizing the program ensures enterprise-wide consistency, which would reduce labor costs drastically. It would streamline the training process and cut superfluous costs by eliminating unnecessary training. Users could expect to see tangible results in their quality of work, cycle time, costs, communication, reliability, safety, and less rework.

Using the program, managers can evaluate and assess worker performance levels using specific behavioral indicators. Because the system is objective and rational, it would also increase employee satisfaction and retention.

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Jaime Ritter

Jaime Ritter is the associate editor of Fabricating & Metalworking Magazine. Fabricating & Metalworking, 3584 Highway 31 South, Suite 108, Pelham, AL 35124,,

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