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Report: Shortage of Skilled Workers in Manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on June 19, 2009

The University of Bremen (Germany) has sent me a very interesting report called “SOS Shortage of Skilled Workers: A comparison of the European Metal Industry and Electrical Industry (July 2008)” – A summary:

  • Between 10% (Germany) and 30% (Slovenia) of the manufacturing enterprises in Europe are experiencing a dramatic increase of losses in production due to a lack of skilled workers. These percentages have continuously increased since 2005.
  • In Austria -in 2006- there were three occupations of the metal and electrical sector with more job vacancies than unemployed persons: welders, turners and milling workers.


* Young graduates do not meet the requirements of the enterprises. There is a serious lack of technical and practical knowledge and high-level skills linked to:

  • The increasing variety of materials, applications and relevant technologies in the sector = Young people need understanding of higher developed, more sophisticated technologies;

  • The increasingly intellectual and service requirements: project management + maintenance/ inspection + instruction/ training, customer services + CAD/CAM programming,… = Young people need training of leadership competences and communication skills;
  • Higher complexity and variety of the tasks (flexibility!) due to the rapidly changing needs and expectations of the customers = needing continuous training to understand ever more complex production processes.

= technical education needs to be strengthened urgently. Training curricula and didactics should be completely re-designed and improved, towards modern know-how, the above skills and extensive practical experience.

* The swift demographic change

  • The recruitment of skilled personnel is increasingly getting more difficult as the share of the elderly population will dramatically increase and less young skilled workers enter the labour market;
  • With the retirement of older employees there will be a loss of know-how, performance and productivity. A lack of young staff can do a lot of harm to innovations.
  • Vital is a systematic development of training for older employees and the challenge to win women for technical occupations.

* Companies often miss committed prospective personnel policies:

  • Enterprises find it difficult to source information about funding for training to bridge the skill gaps; companies should be given help and advice to integrate skills development into the entire company strategy.
  • Many companies are cutting back on investments in further training and personnel development, whereas enterprises in Austria investing in training have no problems in finding skilled workers…

Personnel Shortage

Notice the similarities with this chart: Evolution Manufacturing Education


3 Responses to “Report: Shortage of Skilled Workers in Manufacturing”

  1. Unfortunately, it is a common problem, especially in the manufacturing industry at least in the US anyways. For us, I think this is primarily due to the constantly declining pay scale for this type of work.

    There are more and more companies outsourcing their manufacturing to under developed nations for cents on the dollar, which leaves those trying to compete in this market with no option other than to cut pay. When will they learn?

  2. Bert Maes said

    Thanks, Mark, for your valuable comment.

    How bad is the pay scale problem in manufacturing exactly?

    Regularly, I hear that a job in (CNC) manufacturing is very rewarding, at least in high- and medium-high-technology sectors. Are the outsourced jobs = low-skilled, boring, repetitive jobs = low-paid jobs?

    Should we really worry about these occupations?

    Or should we focus on manufacturing high value, technologically advanced, sustainable products, combined with advanced ‘hi-tech’ high-quality technical education? And as a result get in higher pay scales?


  3. […] by Bert Maes on July 8, 2009 One of my readers, Mr Mark Liechens, commented on the post “Report: Shortage of Skilled Workers in Manufacturing” that the primary problem is the “constantly declining pay scale” for jobs in the […]

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