In the realm of manufacturing, a significant event is unfolding. Years of expertise and experience are exiting the workforce, leaving an industry on the precipice of a knowledge crisis. This mass retirement of seasoned workers is not only causing a loss of irreplaceable tribal knowledge but is also widening the skills gap within the manufacturing sector.

As an entire generation of experienced workers embarks on a well-deserved retirement, a challenge arises for the manufacturing industry. How do we address the immediate skills gap created by their absence?

Loss of Tribal Knowledge

Tribal knowledge in the manufacturing industry refers to the hands-on skills and institutional knowledge gleaned from years of industry experience. Many people have worked at their company for decades and have developed a deep understanding of the manufacturing processes. But according to a 2018 study by Deloitte, over 2.6 million Baby Boomers are expected to retire from manufacturing jobs over the next decade, taking with them their years of hands-on experience and valuable insights. Their departure not only leads to a loss of practical skills but also leaves a significant void in niche knowledge.


Widening Skills Gap

The retirement of a massive wave of experienced workers in the manufacturing industry has also inadvertently given rise to a pressing challenge: a widening skills gap. According to the Deloitte study, there will be an estimated 4.6 million manufacturing jobs needing to be filled between 2018 and 2028 as a result of the mass retirement of Baby Boomers combined with the natural growth of the industry. Of these 4.6 million open jobs, they expect that only 2.2 million are likely to be filled – leaving 2.4 million open positions.

Not only is the manufacturing industry facing a workforce shortage, but as these seasoned professionals retire, new or green employees who step into the industry lack access to the knowledge and expertise of their predecessors. These fresh talents face a steep learning curve, making it increasingly difficult to fill the void left by the retiring workforce. This is especially true for those companies that do not have effective training programs.  Instead, they rely on the guidance of experienced colleagues to learn effective, proven methods. When these experienced workers leave, a critical knowledge gap emerges.

Addressing This Challenge

If you are in manufacturing, these trends should be of great concern to you. Fortunately, many companies are finding a solution in employee training. According to a 2019 survey by The Manufacturing Institute, nearly 70% of manufacturers are addressing the workforce crisis by creating and expanding employee training programs – and it is paying off, with 43% reporting an increase in workforce levels. Additionally, three-fourths of those surveyed said that upskilling their workers has helped improve employee productivity, and 39% indicated that having these training opportunities has facilitated recruitment efforts. Proper onboarding of all new employees, regardless of level of experience in the industry, ensures that they receive comprehensive guidance and knowledge from the onset, enabling them to contribute effectively. Furthermore, ongoing professional development increases employees’ skills, aligns the entire company on the same page, and leads to greater retention.


Training Considerations

When considering an employee training program, it is crucial for companies to prioritize industry standardized training. Relying solely on tribal knowledge is not effective as it limits the applicability of skills to specific teams or departments. Industry-standardized training is essential to ensure that employees learn not just how things have been done in the past, but how they should be done according to best practices.

There are a variety of industry standardized training programs available for core competencies, such as welding, CNC programming, and SolidWorks CAD design software. However, each of these design and manufacturing processes are reliant on an understanding of engineering drawings. Having industry standardized training for engineering drawings is crucial for effective communication and consistency in drawing interpretation, resulting in fewer errors and less scrap.

GD&T Basics can help your company tackle the skills gap by providing your team with a solid understanding of engineering drawings, with training courses covering Print Reading and Tolerances, Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing, and GD&T Inspection. Through these training courses, your team will gain a comprehensive understanding of how to accurately interpret and analyze engineering prints, ensure compliance with industry drawing standards, and acquire the skills needed for effective inspection practices. GD&T Basics’ training will equip your team to work confidently, knowing they are all on the same page.


The answer to the rapidly expanding skills gap in the manufacturing industry lies in investing in employees. By equipping employees with essential knowledge and skills through industry standardized training, companies can safeguard against the knowledge crisis and bridge the gap with a new generation of skilled professionals. These training initiatives not only ensure a smooth transition but also empower employees to excel in their roles, leading to increased retention and job satisfaction. By prioritizing training, companies not only secure their own success but also contribute to the overall growth and sustainability of the manufacturing industry. In the quest to address the skills gap, training emerges as a key solution, paving the way for a knowledgeable and proficient workforce poised for a prosperous future.

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