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Forget Jobs, Manufacturing Needs Job Seekers

April 21, 2017
iCIMS Staff
4 min read
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From jobs and taxes to healthcare and immigration, President Donald Trump owes his presidency to a broad collection of emotionally charged economic and social issues that galvanized his supporters as much as his detractors.

Among Trump’s many campaign promises, he pledged to revive the eroding U.S. manufacturing industry, which once served as the backbone of a now-shrinking middle class by providing stable blue-collar jobs that paid well and required little education.

After years of automated technology replacing workers and the outsourcing of jobs spurred by globalization, the manufacturing industry’s share of nonfarm payrolls plunged by half during the last quarter-century, from 16 percent in 1990 to 8 percent in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Regardless of whether Trump reverses the momentum, the manufacturing industry must solve a much greater problem, as it already faces a major talent shortage due to a widening skills gap. The industry will create 3.5 million jobs through 2025, but 2 million of them will go unfilled, according to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.

Given the constant gloomy rhetoric, the manufacturing industry’s lack of workers for too many jobs seems surprising. However, as technology’s influence grows, the industry needs higher-skilled workers with advanced, technical education. Meanwhile, manufacturers will transition away from the low-skilled production occupations of the past, which will decline by 3.1 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unlike the far-more-challenging task of bringing back jobs by reversing economic trends, the manufacturing industry possesses far greater control over regaining job seekers’ interest. Ironically, the industry can use technology – the very disruptive entity responsible for so much change – to save itself. Armed with the right talent acquisition software, manufacturers can reach and attract the job seekers that they so desperately need.

Get a Makeover

The manufacturing industry makes goods, but now it needs to focus on remaking its image. Today, the industry conjures up images of abandoned factories with rusted walls and shattered windows, which evoke thoughts of a sector with glory days well behind it. Meanwhile, its constant place in the political spotlight arguably does more harm than good, as talks about reviving it – no matter how necessary or well-intentioned they may be — serve as a reminder of its fading economic footprints. If manufacturers hope to lure job seekers, then they need to change that perception, which they can do by touting the changing composition of their workforce.

Long associated with factory workers, the manufacturing industry’s hiring of such production jobs accounted for less than a quarter of its total hires in 2016, while 40 percent fell into the “other” category, including computer and math-related fields at nearly 10 percent, according to iCIMS. With hopes of catching the attention of today’s more-educated job seekers, the industry must publicize the growing breadth of its career offerings in such areas. For starters, it should consider investing in appropriately branded careers sites, where jobs seekers will almost certainly look, as 78 percent of them consider the professionalism, look, and feel of a company’s career portal as a moderately to highly important factor in deciding whether to apply for a job, according to iCIMS. Using the iCIMS Talent Acquisition Software Suite, manufacturers can highlight those modern positions and configure their careers sites as they see fit.

Find Friends

Though smaller than before, the manufacturing industry remains one of the strongest-performing industries, as it still contributes 12 percent of total GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. With the nation’s economic wellbeing at stake, the industry should feel some pressure to preserve that percentage, which makes the challenge of overcoming the talent shortage all the more daunting. However, nobody says that its talent acquisition professionals should solve the problem alone.

Just as any other industry can do, the manufacturing industry can turn its current employees into an army of recruiters through an employee referral program. By leaning on employees for help, the industry will diversify its sourcing streams while making better hiring decisions, as nearly 45 percent of employers cite employee referrals as their best hires, according to iCIMS. With the iCIMS Talent Acquisition Software Suite, it will acquire the technology that allows for the implementation of employee referral programs, including automated job posting to employees’ social media profiles and referral source reporting.


From careers sites to job boards, the manufacturing industry should advertise its job openings wherever possible. However, the industry may get the best chance to position itself in front of the young job seekers that it needs the most through social media, as 43 percent of users between the ages of 19 and 29 use social networks to search for or research jobs, according to The Pew Research Center. Knowing that, it should focus at the very least on developing a presence on the Big 3, or Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Through the iCIMS Talent Acquisition Software Suite, manufacturers can use set-it-and-forget-it job publishing on their social networks and let job seekers apply through their social media profiles, among other capabilities.


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