Here soon: the battle for skilled workers

There’s a battle brewing for skilled workers. It’s not here yet—at least that anyone will verbalize publicly—but it is not far off. Nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring each day. Many of these workers hold skilled and highly technical jobs in their companies. That is the issue. The problem is there are not enough younger workers qualified to fill these skilled positions.

Companies point to increased productivity using robotics to offset skilled worker shortages. This strategy does help reduce the effects of fewer skilled workers, but not eliminate it. In fact, the next 15 years even with increased automation still promise severe labor shortages.

Many technical colleges now work overtime promoting increased efforts in training tomorrow’s workers. They point with pride to the partnerships with manufacturers for developing these workers with the skills needed to step in. Again, these efforts will not alleviate projected shortages.

This is why there is a battle brewing.

Manufacturers who still view skilled workers as a commodity instead of a valued resource will soon face extreme consequences affecting their ability to keep the doors open.

The pressure to find skilled workers

HR departments need to find skilled replacements for retiring skilled workers. The competition already is heating up. Companies including Subaru now pay headhunters fees of $15,000 for finding workers able to do the work at the skill level required. The shortage is leading to modest increases in pay as a means of attracting workers with the desired skills.

New skilled worker

As this demand increases, pressure on companies to find skilled workers will grow. Furthermore, several different scenarios could appear. Larger OEMs may find it less expensive to outsource work requiring skilled labor.  Or, these same OEMs, citing need for greater oversight and quality control, would choose to keep skilled work within the company. That could result in outbidding smaller manufacturers, even raiding these same manufacturers in order to obtain the workers they need at the expense of other manufacturers.

Regardless which scenario takes shape there will be clear winners and losers among manufacturers. Manufacturers need to think outside the box in attracting the next generation skilled workers and do so quickly.


Paul Schroeder is a content marketing specialist and freelance journalist specializing in manufacturing content. Learn more about brand journalism and content marketing services Paul offers by contacting him at (715) 370-2222, via LinkedIn or email:, or just go to


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