A newly published survey by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte reports that the skills gap in manufacturing is widening. In 2011, when these two organizations first teamed up on such a study, the skills gap was at about 600,000 open positions. While progress had been made in recent years, the skills gap has still remained chronically stuck at around 300,000 open positions. However, the next 10 years appear more concerning.

By 2025, with baby-boomers continuing to retire from all manufacturing job functions at a quickening pace, with increases in manufacturing activity from economic expansion, and with too few individuals in the education and training pipeline, the recent survey projects that the skills gap will widen to two million unfilled jobs.

There are talent management strategies that manufacturers can use to bridge the gap in their businesses that are worth reiterating. Here are a few approaches:

Develop succession plans for all job functions in your organization. Normally, succession planning has been used in key management positions, but the better strategy is to document all key players in all key job functions, so you won’t be surprised in the future by shortages of welders, machinists, designers, engineers, etc., as individuals retire over the next 10 years.

Make today the day that you build or further cement that partnership with your local community college to assure that the right training programs are in place at the right time to replenish the talent that you’ll be losing through retirement, as well as through normal attrition. Don’t forget to take new technological innovations into account when developing a long-term talent management strategy. What technologies are changing the factory floor now and what technologies may create even more change in your business that will require you to create new positions and then hire and train for those?

Conduct open houses at your company on a regular basis and participate in high school career days. Only by getting manufacturing companies more engaged with local public school systems will we be able to stop the closure of “shop classes” in schools. The communities that we live in need to be reminded that the trades are still important, viable career choices for young people. If open houses are already part of your community outreach strategy, remember to consider an event on Manufacturing Day in October. If you don’t already have an apprenticeship program at your company and if it’s a fit to add one, building a strong relationship with your local high schools and community colleges can provide students with a clear path toward a career in manufacturing.

Build relationships with engineering schools and community colleges in your state and local community to develop a college internship program at your company. Internships are often two-way streets that allow students to experience manufacturing for the first time and allow you to evaluate the potential of future employment for the individual.

In addition to the terrific compensation and benefits package that you offer, add career pathways with specific training and goals to make your company an even more attractive and competitive place to work.

As an industry, remember that we’re not simply competing for a limited pool of talent, we’re also competing with other industries as well.

For more frequent updates about the skills gap, follow me on Twitter @GregoryAJones.