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What is the Manufacturing Workforce “4.0”?

Industry 4.0 is transforming manufacturing. The trends of automation, robotics, advanced materials, and cloud computing are changing the factory floor. What does this transformation mean for the workforce?

A Unique Moment in Time

To put the workforce into perspective, we need to understand the facts:

  • Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need filledi
  • 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day until 2030ii
  • The average age of a highly skilled manufacturing worker is 56iii
  • The average tenure in a job is 4.5 yearsiv
  • The average half-life of a skills is 5 yearsv
  • The skills gap is not going away. If anything, the challenge will only increase as Industry 4.0 accelerates change on the factory floor.
Stop Looking — Create Your Own

On the other side of the manufacturing skills gap are individuals in our economy who do not have the skills they need to advance economically.

According to a 2017 report published by Tyton Partners, 103 million adults lack education and skills training. Over 76 million are making less than $22,000 annually.

The challenge is not lack of workers; the challenge is a lack of access to skills training.

Life is a journey that requires skills and skills training should be available when and where it is needed.

Technology and online skills training expand points of access to offer skills training when and where it is needed. Great employers understand that the skills gap is not a content-deficiency problem. Content on every technical topic exists somewhere.

What if…
  • Every candidate that applied for a job at a manufacturing facility who did not have the required skills was offered readiness training at no cost?
  • For a candidate, access to skills training could help them better understand the company, work environment, and skills needed for employment success.
  • For an employer, offering skills training could provide a new pool of candidates that would otherwise be shut out. It would also be an indicator of candidates possessing interest, initiative, and willingness to learn.
What if…
  • Every employee was empowered to drive the trajectory of their career and provided access to the skills they needed to advance?
  • For employees, offering access to skills training would provide a clear path to economic advancement.
  • For employers, offering access to skills training would strengthen workforce planning and build a pipeline of much needed technical workers.

Industry 4.0 is driving how manufacturers will need to create, grow and retain their workforce. The Manufacturing Workforce 4.0 requires a strategic approach to recruiting and workforce planning. It is time to reinvent the human resource function in manufacturing, moving from a system designed to screen candidates out to a system designed to bring candidates in.

Access to skills is a barrier we need to remove.

  1. The Skills Gap in US Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond
  2. Pew Research Center
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. Deloitte: Global Human Capital Trends
  5. Ibid

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About the Author

Jennifer McNellyJennifer McNelly is president of 180 Skills, LLC. She may be reached at or 317-793-3373.