Industry Market Trends

Manufacturers Need a Succession Plan for their Workforce

Sep 12, 2013

U.S. manufacturers need to pick up the pace in recruiting the next generation of workers to fill their talent pipelines. The industry's workforce faces a ticking "biological clock," as older workers prepare to retire and manufacturers seem to lack a sense of urgency to replace them, according to's new 2013 Industry Market Barometer survey of over 1,200 manufacturers.

A future talent shortage is a looming threat to the industry. Even though millennials (age 18-32) are expected to comprise 75 percent of the workforce in 2025, most of the companies that were surveyed reported that these workers currently make up only 25 percent of their workforce.

Respondents were primarily U.S.-based executives and general managers, who participated in the survey between April 15 and May 24. The majority represented small manufacturing Backpacksbusinesses.

Although manufacturers are well aware of the impact employees have on their companies -- 74 percent of respondents say workers are their most important assets -- the survey indicates that they are failing to institute a succession plan to recruit the next generation of talent.

Nearly half of respondents expect to add headcount in 2013, but only 29 percent plan to add millennial employees to their workforce in the next two years.

Companies that are actively recruiting report that one major drawback in placing talent is a lack of basic skills among young workers. At least 25 percent say that high schools should offer more technical training to prepare students for industry jobs, and others suggest a stronger emphasis on STEM curricula and more partnerships between industries and schools.

The survey, which also delves into the growing technological innovation in the industry, identifies what specific positions recruiters hope to fill.

More than half of respondents (60 percent) are looking for engineers, skilled trade workers (59 percent), sales and marketing employees (55 percent), and manufacturing production and management personnel (53 percent). Most report that they recruit these young workers from apprenticeship programs.