The war for talent hits manufacturing

May 10, 2021, 9:00 AM UTC

Good morning,

The manufacturing industry may be at a crossroads.

A U.S. manufacturing skills gap could leave as many as 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030, according to a report by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute released May 4. 

“The manufacturing industry netted a loss of 578,000 jobs during the pandemic-challenged year 2020 — a figure that represents nearly six years of job gains, and yet, at any given moment in the past six months, nearly 500,000 jobs have remained open in manufacturing,” according to the report.

A survey of almost 800 U.S. manufacturers found they are having a hard time finding skilled talent to meet the pace of digital transformation in the industry, and 36% said the task is harder than it was in 2018.

Manufacturers also pointed to the war for talent as an obstacle — 77% believe they will have ongoing difficulties in attracting and retaining workers in 2021 and beyond. 

Manufacturers need to “balance the need to cultivate innate human capabilities while reskilling their workforce with digital skills,” Deloitte advised in the report. An example? General Motors began a Technical Learning University initiative in 2017 for its trade workers and salaried manufacturing engineers. The program has since trained more than 300 employees, according to Deloitte.

But many CFOs in manufacturing in North America are already feeling the pressures of an industry affected by digital transformation.

Since the onset of the pandemic 57% of CFOs in manufacturing said they’re experiencing higher demands from their executive/leadership teams, according to Deloitte’s CFO Signals: Q1 2021 Report. In addition, 27% reported a broader functional responsibility than pre-pandemic, such as more divisions reporting to the CFO. About 71% said they want to improve in financial planning and analysis capabilities.

Positions going unfilled is a plight occurring across industries and company sizes due to the pandemic. The National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) latest jobs report for April found “a record 44% of all small business owners report having job openings they could not fill, 22 points higher than the 48-year historical average, and two points higher than the 42% figure from March,” the NFIB said in an announcement. 

In addition to unfilled positions, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ jobs report released May 7 found only 266,000 jobs were added in April. However, Misty Heggeness, principal economist/senior advisor for evaluations and experiments at the U.S. Census Bureau, links the poor jobs report to the fact that women still don’t have stable childcare or the full-time openings of schools to rely on.

“Moms of school age kids make up a third of all working women,” Heggeness tweeted. “While women age 25-64 with no dependent children have seen improvements over the past few months, [employment for mothers] has stalled, even though it has caught up to dads in terms of a gender gap.”

She continued, “Until we see increased vaccination rates and childcare/schools fully open, or employers increase wages significantly, we might not see additional vast improvements.” Heggeness added, “Or, at a minimum, the sector of the economy that are parents will continue to drag down employment numbers.”

And speaking of radical change, one of Fortune‘s biggest events of the year is coming up in June. Following the most disruptive period in modern history, there are plenty of lessons for leadership to be gained. The 2021 Fortune Global Forum, a virtual event sponsored by McKinsey & Company, Salesforce and The Project Management Institute (PMI), has a blockbuster lineup this year. You’ll hear from top CEOs around the globe, and have a chance to network and participate as well. Whether this is your first Fortune event or your 40th, this one is not to be missed. You can apply to attend here.

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been less severe in the cybersecurity field compared to other industries, new research from global IT and cybersecurity association ISACA finds. But the more than 3,600 cybersecurity leaders surveyed reported consistent challenges finding qualified candidates leading to understaffed teams.

Going deeper

Business leaders cited digital preparedness as key to adapting amid the pandemic, according to new research by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the global business intelligence unit of The Economist Group. The study commissioned by Microsoft found that 50% of organizations said cloud technology played a critical role in their COVID-era operations. Meanwhile 40% of respondents pointed to technologies to enable remote work, followed by artificial intelligence and machine learning (33%).


John Dalby was named CFO at NYDIG, a provider of investment and technology solutions for Bitcoin. Dalby is the CFO at Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund. Prior to joining Bridgewater, Dalby was CFO and chief operating officer of D.E. Shaw Renewables Investments.

Hubert Hinterseher was named CFO at PUMA, effective June 1. Hinterseher has been with PUMA for 16 years, most recently as the global director of financial controlling.


"Demand is outpacing supply. That’s something that is occurring across the economy, in semiconductors to lumber, and we're seeing a similar crunch in the labor market."

— Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, on the increase in job postings, as told to the Associated Press

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