Future skills for those in manufacturing


The ‘skills gap’ is a longstanding issue in manufacturing that is consistently a topic for great discussion. It has been always been difficult to recruit for highly skilled and experienced positions within the sector, and it would seem that this problem is not likely to go away any time soon.However, one possible solution that may be worth considering is to hire for tomorrow, and not for today. The will of course mean short term pain, but over the long term it could reduce the skills shortage headache within your facility substantially.

And what exactly do we mean by ‘hire for tomorrow’?

Well, with the advent of industry4.0 and the constantly exponential growth in technology and complexity in the work we need to perform in manufacturing, it is fairly safe to say that the skills we needed 20 years ago, are not going to the same skills we require over the next 20 years.

If then the rate of change of innovation is growing exponentially in a field where new technology can create a change in our business seemingly overnight, how do we ensure we have the right skill sets in our teams to be ready for those challenges?

In a recent report complied by the world economic forum, they predicted that the skills required in 2020 (and further) would be quite different from what we have to day.


Just as in 2015, complex problem solving would be a fundamental skill set in manufacturing.

However, a few surprises instantly jump out when reviewing this data.

Emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility are key skills that will be in very high demand over the next 10 years or more, as there will be more and more demand put on individuals to be able to handle increasing complexity and overcome tasks that have never been attempted before, and therefore individuals will need to become more agile and adaptable in an ever increasingly changing environment.

Quality control and active listening are skills that no longer make the top 10 list in 2020 and beyond. It is more likely that quality control will be significantly more automated with the introduction of machine learning, AI, vision systems and other such technology. Whereas active listening is just one small element of a much broader skill of emotional intelligence, which is key in being able to drive change, and lead others.

As the technology required within manufacturing becomes ever more complex and interdependent, so too should our skills and capabilities.

We should be considering people are more adaptable to change, more agile, and more entrepreneurial. We need to consider those who can lead through times of turbulence, and those who can bring others together to achieve common goals.

We should re-consider some of our hiring strategies and HR polices to encourage more diversity and focus less on ‘traditional manufacturing skills’ but more on someone’s ability to cope with change, uncertainty, and their ability to leverage disruption to increase performance.