The future of manufacturing faces a major skills gap that could grow as the workforce struggles to keep up with further technological advances

How to prepare students for the future of manufacturing


The future of manufacturing faces a major skills gap that could grow as the workforce struggles to keep up with further technological advances

Many sectors have embraced digital transformation in the workplace, welcoming in advanced technology, new tools, and greater efficiency. In the design and manufacturing industry, digital transformation has led to the creation of new jobs and opportunities. The problem is that the existing workforce isn’t equipped with the skills necessary for these emerging roles.

Right now, the manufacturing industry faces a major skills gap—one that will only widen in the next decade as the workforce struggles to keep up with further technological advances. According to the Manufacturing Institute, the manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. But where do we find the much-needed manufacturing workers to keep us running? Naturally, the answer lies with those about to enter the workforce: our students.

In my previous role, I was a lecturer in the School of Engineering at the University of Warwick, where I was responsible for curriculum development and teaching mechanical engineering. I had the opportunity to work with bright young people at a pivotal time in their lives, just before they move from the classroom to the working world. The lessons that we teach and the skills that we build with them in this short time are the foundation for their careers and could mean the difference between them getting hired for their dream job or getting passed over for a more experienced worker.

At this crucial junction, educators have a powerful opportunity to equip students with real-world skills that they’ll use every day in their jobs. That’s why it is so important for us to understand what the most valuable skills are now, and what they will be in the future. In a new research project conducted by the American Society of Manufacturing Engineers (ASME), academics and industry professionals came together to forecast how manufacturing roles will evolve in the next decade and what those crucial, must-have skills will be.

Among the research findings, there was a strong chorus of support for growing students’ design for manufacturing knowledge and skills, with 90 percent of respondents believing this topic is the most impactful way for academia to develop the future manufacturing workforce. In addition to this core skillset, academics and industry professionals are looking toward the future with shared interest in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and 3D printing. These new technologies are not only fascinating to students, but researchers also found these skills will only grow in importance and application over the next decade.

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