MILWAUKEE, WI — An increasing number of manufacturers now struggle to find qualified applicants for open positions, according to data from the ASQ 2016 Manufacturing Outlook Survey.

Fifty-one percent of respondents say the lack of qualified applicants is their greatest hurdle when hiring for vacant positions, up from 44 percent in 2011 when ASQ last surveyed manufacturers about hiring challenges. According to the more recent data, 25 percent of respondents said their biggest challenge is the time it takes to hire a new employee, while 17 percent cited the lack of budget to fill open positions.

But many manufacturers aren’t sitting idle: 55 percent say they’ve hired an agency to help find skilled applicants, and 41 percent are working with local colleges on programs that teach the skills they need, according to the survey results.

“With the Baby Boomer generation retiring and leaving manufacturers with vacant positions, the shortage of qualified applicants remains a clear concern for manufacturers,” said Cecilia Kimberlin, ASQ Chair. “It’s pivotal that workers get the training and education they need to fill these roles and be successful in the high-tech manufacturing field — whether that’s through on-the-job training, or through an organization like ASQ.”

ASQ, the leading authority on quality in all fields, organizations and industries, conducts the Manufacturing Outlook Survey annually to gauge manufacturing professionals’ views on the year ahead. Respondents to the ASQ 2016 Manufacturing Outlook Survey represent a multitude of industries, including aerospace, automotive, food, medical device, and more. The ASQ 2016 Manufacturing Outlook survey was fielded online in November as part of World Quality Month. More than 900 manufacturing professionals responded to the survey.

ASQ offers training, certification, knowledge resources and other customized solutions to help organizations drive efficiencies and enhance their bottom lines, and provides workers the skills they need to succeed and advance in manufacturing and quality.

Retirement’s Impact on Quality

Manufacturers are split on the impact retirements will have on their organizations in 2016, with 37 percent saying retirements aren’t likely to affect the organization, and 34 percent saying retiring employees will greatly affect the organizations.

According to the results, 37 percent of respondents expect no change in quality due to retirements, while 33 percent say product or services will be adversely impacted due to retiring employees. Only 6 percent expect quality to increase.

Regardless of manufacturers’ perceived impact retirees have on their organization or quality, the overwhelming majority rely on on-the-job training to transfer knowledge from retiring workers to new employees.

And while 86 percent of manufacturers rely on on-the-job training, 17 percent require additional, company-provided classroom training and 9 percent require classroom training through a third-party.

According to the 2011 survey results, 87 percent of respondents say they use on-the-job training, while 5 percent say their business requires company-provided classroom training, and 2 percent said they use third-party training.

Confidence in Economy Wanes

In late 2014, manufacturers expressed confidence in the economy, with 83 percent expecting revenue growth in 2015, but that confidence has subsided as the year comes to a close. According to the 2016 Manufacturing Outlook Survey, only 65 percent of manufacturers anticipate an increase in revenue in 2016.
And while 83 percent of manufacturers expected increased revenue in 2015, only 65 percent experienced a revenue increase, according to the survey results. In 2014, 75 percent of manufacturers experienced revenue growth, according to the 2015 Manufacturing Outlook Survey fielded in late 2014.

According to the latest survey, 40 percent of respondents cited the economy as their organization’s greatest hurdle in 2016. Thirty percent say the shortage of skilled workers will be the greatest challenge for their organization.

Other hurdles identified by respondents include, “keeping up with the growth of the company,” “poor management,” “gap in product pipeline,” and “market competition.”

Despite the waning confidence in the economy, 61 percent of respondents expect their organization to increase salaries, while 23 percent expect a wage freeze. Only 2 percent expect their companies to reduce wages. And according to the data, 19 percent of manufacturers expect their organization to reduce staff, with 81 percent expecting their employees to maintain current staffing levels or hire additional staff.

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