Manufacturers Report Difficulty Hiring for Highly Skilled Technical, Trade Positions

Apr 5, 2012

SHRM poll: Skills gap creates recruiting challenge for two-thirds of those hiring

Alexandria, Va., April 5, 2012 — More than two-thirds of the manufacturers that were hiring late last year reported difficulty finding skilled workers for specific openings, according to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) research.

The second of eight industry-specific SHRM poll findings on how the recession is impacting employers showed that three-quarters (75 percent) of respondents from the manufacturing industry were hiring in fall 2011. That was an increase from 51 percent in 2010.

But 68 percent of those hiring reported difficulty recruiting for specific job openings. The positions most difficult to fill in the manufacturing industry were high-skilled technical (for example, technicians and programmers) (89 percent); engineers (88 percent); skilled trades (electricians and carpenters) (83 percent); and managers and executives (80 percent).

The findings are from SHRM’s Ongoing Impact of the Recession Poll, which surveyed 360 randomly selected HR professionals from the manufacturing industry in late August and early September 2011.

The skills gap in manufacturing and practices and resources to overcome it will be explored in an interactive half-day summit at SHRM’s Annual Conference. With the U.S. Department of Labor, SHRM will present “Keeping America Competitive: Addressing the skills gap in manufacturing” from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

The SHRM poll showed that organizations were seeing knowledge gaps in job applicants, including mathematics (60 percent); writing in English (40 percent); and reading comprehension (40 percent). The top skills gap in manufacturing industry: critical thinking and problem solving (59 percent); teamwork (45 percent); leadership (42 percent); and written communications and professionalism (each 39 percent).

Other findings on manufacturing include:

  • When recruiting for jobs that required new and different skills, more organizations were having difficulty finding qualified individuals in 2011 (72 percent) compared to 2010 (43 percent).
  • Manufacturers were hiring non-management hourly employees (85 percent); non-management salaried employees (64 percent); and directors and managers (54 percent).
  • Forty-four percent of organizations reported hiring military veterans for key jobs that had been difficult to fill. In addition, 18 percent said they were considering hiring veterans, and 4 percent reported plans to do so in the next 12 months.

In the coming weeks, SHRM will release industry-specific results on six other industries, including high tech. For more information on the poll findings, visit the SHRM Research webpage.

Media: For more information and press credentials for the manufacturing summit or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260 and

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing about 260,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at
and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.


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