Ask a machine shop owner what they see as the biggest problem facing the industry at present: chances are high that they will say the “lack of skilled labor.” For the greater part of the 20th century, machine shops and manufacturing plants were amongst the fastest growing industries in the country; employing a large portion of the American workforce. In today’s landscape, however, a 15-year labor shortage is predicted to extend the labor deficit currently burdening this sector. Not to worry, though. Technology is circling a shiny, silver lining around the situation to at least help ease the workload; more on that later. It first might help to gain a firmer grasp of the factors leading to the labor shortage.
The mid-20th century economic boom commanded a large number of skilled laborers to supply its large demand for product. And oh boy, did we supply. American workers produced everything from automobiles to airplanes, electronics and more … much more. Young adults knew that they could find a sufficient amount of security if they chose a career path in an industrious field; and many did. If you were really ambitious and wanted to fast track your future in a skilled labor intense field, you could receive vocational education provided either by your high school or a trade school.
That generation of Americans worked hard, and now many of them are either eligible for retirement or nearing it. An estimated 53% of skilled laborers are between the ages of 45-54, and nearly 20% are 55-64. As Baby Boomers near retirement, the gap caused by lack of workers to fill the void widens.
Fewer millennials are choosing trades as careers, or learning the specialized skill set necessary to gain employment in manufacturing. This is due in part to a lack of funding for trade schools; but also the removal of the Shop Programs in public high schools, that helped interested students receive the training needed to gain employment as a skilled laborer. Also, promotion of vocational studies have been all but abandoned in many schools, replaced by a curriculum encouraging 4-year colleges over the adoption of trades.
As mentioned in the beginning of this blog, technology will serve as a bridge for machine shops and manufacturing companies who are feeling the sting of the labor shortage. If your company does its milling manually, you should consider investing in a CNC machine. If you already have a CNC machine on hand, the software you use to run it is the difference between making or missing production goals. Just be sure to do your research. There are dozens of CAM programs on the market that promise benefits that in reality, their software can’t deliver. The right CAM package will all but eliminate the amount of time spent programming and should be parametrically intuitive; as a way to reduce the learning curve and facilitate training new users.
In this way, technology could assist businesses most affected by the labor shortage to not only handle the additional work load brought on by the lack of help, but also increase overall revenue. Industry has played a vital role in the economic health of our country, so it is important that we are providing companies access to the necessary tools to be successful. If you would like more information on CAM software, be sure to check out the resources page at CADimensions.com. You can also look for CAMWorks Hands-On-Test Drive dates on our events page if you would like to a hands on evaluation of CAM software.