Manufacturing is experiencing rapid change caused by technological advances that are transforming the jobs on the factory floor and shifting the skills and expertise employers seek. The Digital Revolution is defined by such advances like artificial intelligence, automation, and big data capabilities that allow manufacturing companies to increase production efficiency and cost effectiveness. As manufacturing companies integrate advanced technology into their business processes, they need new kinds of professionals with Emerging Technology skills to propel the industry forward.
EAB integrated research interviews with university experts, industry literature about the automation of manufacturing, and comprehensive labor market data in Emsi Burning Glass to identify a segment of 18 Emerging Technology skills that are increasingly in demand within the industry. Emsi Burning Glass is EAB’s partner to provide universities real-time job postings data to answer questions about employer needs and highly demanded skills.
Emerging Technology skills include skills such as:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Digital Transformation
- Internet of Things
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Machine Learning
- Big Data
- Human Machine Interfaces
Today’s manufacturing employers are increasingly seeking professionals with these Emerging Technology skills to adapt to and manage the factory of the future. Over the past three years, Emsi Burning Glass data shows that the proportion of manufacturing jobs posted with Emerging Technology skills increased 60%. Today, one out of every four job postings in the manufacturing industry requests professionals with these skills. The integration of these new technologies into the manufacturing industry will require more professionals who are highly skilled in advanced technologies, including machine learning and robotics.
Despite these advances, and in some cases because of them, common misperceptions about the manufacturing industry persist that have major impacts on the state of the industry: students often carry outdated stereotypes of what it’s like to work in the manufacturing industry; most higher education institutions continue to prepare students for traditional manufacturing tracks; and manufacturing companies tend to either tackle digital transformation wholesale without understanding the full impacts or struggle with where and how to begin investing in new technologies.
If these misperceptions are overcome, students will be excited to enter the new world of manufacturing and well prepared to effectively support companies integrating new technologies that can lead to greater efficiencies and better business outcomes. If they are not, experts estimate over 2 million manufacturing positions will be unfilled between 2018 and 2028, with an economic impact of about 2 trillion USD.
Below are three common myths about the manufacturing industry debunked.
Myth: Robots are taking the manufacturing jobs
Some believe that the adoption of increasingly advanced technology means that machines are increasingly replacing humans on the factory floor. In fact, the increased use of artificial intelligence and automation is estimated to create more jobs than it eliminates. Experts expect artificial intelligence technologies to displace 75 million jobs by 2022 but create 133 million new roles that require skills to engage with this emerging technology.
The manufacturing industry will experience this impact uniquely: labor market data indicates that 4 million jobs will need to be filled in the manufacturing industry over the next 10 years.
Automation technology is not necessarily about reducing the size of the workforce but about driving efficiency and making human work more meaningful. The future of the manufacturing industry is dependent on the partnership between humans and machines, combining the speed of automation with humans’ unique critical and creative thinking skills. For example, technicians are increasingly welding with the assistance of robots. By controlling the robots with ethernet or USB controllers, technicians can be more precise, consistent, and efficient.
Myth: The manufacturing industry mostly employs low-skilled workers without four-year degrees
Few universities or prospective students expect the manufacturing industry to require professionals with business, leadership, or strategic thinking skills. However, the integration of new technologies in the manufacturing industry will increasingly create management positions that require professionals to have change management skills in addition to basic knowledge about automation and artificial intelligence. These kinds of jobs will require professionals with an interdisciplinary education that combines the management and strategy training of an MBA with the technical education of an engineering or computer science degree.
Over the past three years, Emsi Burning Glass data shows that demand for managers with Emerging Technology skills in the manufacturing industry has increased 126% on average, much faster than the 72% average increase for all manufacturing jobs during this period. Emerging manager roles in the manufacturing industry must use strategic planning and thought leadership skills to determine how to integrate emerging technologies, including big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, into business processes to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Emerging job titles
- Automation Manager
- Digital Transformation Director
- Business Analysis Manager
Average percent change of hard skills demand for management positions in the manufacturing industry
Change management skills
Emerging technology skills
August 2018-July 2021, National Data
Myth: Associate’s-level workers and technicians only need technical skills in a specialized area to succeed in today’s manufacturing industry
Five years ago, it might have been enough to train manufacturing technicians in a specialized skill, like welding or CNC operations. Today, manufacturing technicians and floor workers are increasingly expected to possess knowledge about advanced technologies, necessitating greater critical and creative thinking skills. As artificial intelligence and automation take over the routine and standardized tasks from technicians, they are expected to work alongside robots, manage and troubleshoot integrated technology systems, and analyze data.
Academic programs that strike the balance of teaching both relevant technical hard skills and more uniquely human professional skills will be most successful in securing enrollments and preparing the manufacturing workforce of the future.
Average percent change in soft skills demand for associate’s-level professionals in the manufacturing industry
August 2018-July 2021, National Data
To prepare for the manufacturing industry of the future, colleges and universities must ensure that related academic programs prepare technicians, engineers, and managers to have deeper knowledge of Emerging Technology skills and advanced critical thinking skills to prepare professionals for today’s technology-driven manufacturing industry.
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