Finding the right employees will require your company to rethink who it hires and how it hires.
According to a study conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, the U.S. could see as many as 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030.
The problem is rooted in the pandemic, when 1.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs were lost, a move that the study indicates set the labor force back by more than a decade. Since that time, manufacturing has brought back 63 percent of those jobs, a record number of jobs remain unfilled.
That is, in part, because of the lack of workers, but it's also related to a skills shortage.
Tracey believes that potential manufacturing employees — those who bring the right skills to the table — are in places that the industry just isn't looking.
"[Potential employees] might be in low-wage jobs, they might be working part time but available for full time," Tracey said. "They might have recently lost a job or left the work force for childcare reasons, and haven't come back in. These are folks who are able to work, want to work, but they are not coming and knocking on your door. So we have to do a better job of finding those folks.
"We need to be thinking about how do we advocate for people of color, for women, for differently abled folks and LGBTQ. That’s another one that the manufacturing industry isn’t typically considered to be good at — welcoming folks who are gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans folks."
Veterans also should be considered, Tracey said. As a whole, the industry understands the value of the skills that veterans bring to the table, but isn't doing enough to reach them.
"We know that veterans have a great set of skills — that work ethic, that discipline. Those are things that the manufacturing industry loves," Tracey said. "But veterans are not being pulled in. We are not doing a great job of attracting them and helping them understand how their skills translate."
Second-chance hiring policies are another excellent starting point for manufacturers seeking to broaden the applicant pool, Tracey said.
Not only do those with criminal records often show great commitments to their jobs, it's easy to bring them into the applicant pool because it mostly requires changes in the hiring process your company has in place. And start, she said, with how you screen applicants.
"A lot of companies have blanket policies on criminal record: We can't hire you. But what we are finding is that people with criminal records are often great employees," Tracey said. "So, we really need to look at our HR policies and ask does it really need to be blanket? Can we change what kind of background checks we roll out?"