Manufacturing and Light Industrial Companies Struggle to Fill Jobs

Nearly every industry is feeling the effects of the widespread talent shortage on some level, but some far more acutely than others. Despite producing 11.6% of the US economic output last year, 89% of manufacturers report that they continually cannot fill all of their job openings, according to a recent study from SCORE

Manufacturing and light industrial companies, while optimistic about future growth, contend with the challenges of a sapped workforce as they try to ramp up production to meet demand—north of 400,000 jobs remain open today within the sector. Furthermore, these figures are only expected to increase in the coming years. 

A report from industry authority Deloitte predicts that nearly 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled from now to the year 2028. While this is undoubtedly a promising projection for the health of the sector, only 2.2 million of those are expected to be filled, causing concern for many talent acquisition leaders. 

But what’s behind such a severe skill shortage?

There are several factors at play, each contributing their own unique effect and exacerbating the impact of the others. Record-low unemployment throughout the US has certainly played a role; the number of job openings vastly outnumber the people searching for jobs. But more than just low unemployment, a negative perception of the manufacturing industry tops the list on a recent survey from The Manufacturing Institute. However unfair and inaccurate it may be, a perception of low wages, poor work environment, and stigma against the trades have funneled large portions of younger generations entering the workforce away from the sector. 

Compounding the issue, an aging workforce has drastically siphoned off much of the qualified, experienced labor pool. The rapid retirement of baby boomers has plagued many organizations; 27% of manufacturing workers are age 55 and approaching retirement. With fewer members of the younger generation entering the field, hiring managers in the industry scramble to implement policies and management practices to bridge the deficit.

Difficulty in filling manufacturing roles spreads across a variety of specialties and qualifications, but some, in particular, are commonly cited as being the most in-demand for organizations. We’ll touch on a few of those below:


The backbone of production centers and assembly lines across the country, assemblers perform quality checks on products and parts and produce components by assembling parts and subassemblies. As the industry continues to experience growth, openings for this position are expected to continue to rise. 

Machine Operator

Responsible for set-up, operation, and maintenance of machines and equipment, skilled machine operators are in very high demand as a strong economy and steadily emerging technologies increase production levels across multiple industries. 

Powered Industrial Truck (PIT) Operators

Key to every plant or warehouse’s productivity and success, these PIT operators are a ubiquitous requirement for organizations across the country. Candidates for this position must be technically proficient and exceptionally well trained in best safety practices. 


Crucial to preparing high volume orders for shipping, pickers/packers are staples within warehouses, distribution centers, and production facilities. As workload fluctuates throughout the year, many organizations are tasked with hiring large groups within a short time period, and this position continuously populates job boards industry-wide. 

Tidewater Staffing

Struggling to acquire the crucial manufacturing and light industrial talent your business needs? Look no further than the industry experts at Tidewater Staffing. Our team of staffing professionals maintains an extensive, trained, and committed roster of associates readily available to help our clients overcome their hiring challenges and meet production demands. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can do it for you.

2020-01-02T16:49:35-05:00December 31st, 2019|