By Devin Steele

The skilled labor shortage in and off itself has been one of the major issues affecting the U.S. sewn products industry and the larger manufacturing sector for years. Throw in the fact the U.S. is experiencing near-historic low unemployment during an extended period of economic expansion, and the problem is only exacerbated.

Plus, U.S. manufacturers and their suppliers are experiencing some of the highest levels of growth we’ve seen in decades, yet the industry seems unable to keep up with the resulting rebound in job growth. This poses major challenges for manufacturers and may threaten the vitality of the industry and our economy long term.

According to a Deloitte analysis of the Oxford Global Economics Model, manufacturing has consistently contributed more than 10 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) and represented more than 8 percent of all U.S. employed population in 2017.

Many companies are turning to technology and other measures to address the skills gap and meet production demands. For the sewn products industry in particular, robotics and automation have grown in importance.

According to a study the 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute skills gap and future of work study, surveyed manufacturers believed the No. 1 cause of the skills gap is “shifting skill set due to the introduction of new advanced technology and automation,” followed by “negative perception of students/their parents toward the manufacturing industry.” Baby Boomer retirements rounded out the top three.

Skills shortage article for SEAMS newsletter_022419