Man contemplating supply and demand on a blackboard

Design Insights: Labor Shortage Reaches Crisis Stage; What’s Your Labor Situation?; A WISE Approach to the Problem

June 2, 2021
A review of the day’s top trending stories from Machine Design editors.

Labor Shortage Reaches Crisis Stage

Even as the U.S. economy continues to grow back to pre-pandemic levels, the persistent labor shortage is the darkest cloud on the horizon. That crisis was amplified by two reports on June 1.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced its America Works initiative to address the worker shortage, with Chamber CEO Suzanne Clark declaring, “As we stand on the cusp of what could be a great American resurgence, a worker shortage is holding back job creators across the country.”

In a press release, Clark compared the urgency to the process initiated in the Trump Administration to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. “This is Operation Warp Speed for Jobs,” Clark said. “We’re helping our members address the worker shortage by bringing the full strength of the Chamber’s advocacy muscle to this urgent crisis, expanding the Chamber Foundation’s most successful workforce programs, and mobilizing our nationwide federation of association and chamber partners to drive solutions that make America more competitive.”

That challenge was amplified in the monthly PMI index from the Institute for Supply Management. While the index rose in May to 61.2%, well above the growth level for the PMI Index, ISM committee chairman Timothy Fiore said the worker shortage was holding back further growth in the manufacturing sector.

“Manufacturing performed well for the 12th straight month, with demand, consumption and inputs registering strong growth compared to April,” Fiore said. “The manufacturing recovery has transitioned from first addressing demand headwinds, to now overcoming labor obstacles across the entire value chain.”

What’s Your Labor Situation?

How is your organization facing the labor crisis? Have you had success with a particular hiring, training or recruitment strategy? What do you think is hurting your ability to attract and retain talent? Machine Design editors will compile these comments and present a report next week. Send your comments to [email protected] to be included in this survey.

A WISE Approach to the Problem

One under-represented sector in manufacturing is women, and Machine Design continues to call attention to this area through its Women In Science & Engineering (WISE) initiative. Roberta Rincon, associate director of research at the Society of Women Engineers, writes in a Machine Design essay that the challenges for bringing more women into manufacturing are both practical and cultural.

“Recruitment also involves removing systemic barriers along the educational path,” she writes. “This would include increasing the number of STEM role models for young women and combating stereotypes that decision-makers such as teachers and college advisors may have about women that then influences women’s decisions to pursue STEM degrees. These stereotypes can also affect how students of all genders interact with female students.

“Retention, on the other hand, is really about tackling the systemic barriers that push women out of STEM professions. Don’t be fooled: Most of these women are not leaving the workforce to care for children,” she adds. “A study on why women leave STEM, specifically the male-dominated field of engineering, found that almost 70% said they were still working after leaving engineering. The top reasons for leaving? Working conditions and organizational climate.

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