Manpower has recently addressed that question, in person and on paper.

Manpower shares insights from manufacturing experts. The message: Human resources leaders must refine leadership and management to build more effective, flexible work models that make “Human Age” companies resilient when encountering unpredictable business challenges.
That was the point that Manpower – a global leader in both contingent and permanent workforce solution – delivered in late January 2013 in Davos, Switzerland.

Relentless in getting the message out, Manpower – in late February 2013 – hosted its first Industry Challenge Council in the United States. Davos is a long way from Milwaukee (site of the US-hosted event), but the message was the same.

The Wisconsin event – an exclusive gathering of industry leaders focused on the future of the manufacturing workforce – addressed the significant changes taking place in the current industrial environment. The day-long council included closed-door strategy sessions, wherein employers, trade groups and educators could meet minds to identify solutions to skills gap problems – an issue that confronts industry like an angry, one-ton, sharp-horned snorting bull who couldn’t care less how cool you think you are as you run down cobblestoned Pamplona streets.

In conjunction with these events, Manpower released a research paper, “The Future of the Manufacturing Workforce,” which shared insights from manufacturing experts and solutions needed to navigate through the ever-transforming manufacturing industry. Indeed, the paper serves as the event focal point.

The paper, written by business strategist Tom Davenport, is organized in a series of reports that focus on:

  • The dramatically changing manufacturing environment and the emerging technologies;
  • The rise of the “tech” (a manufacturing technical worker) in a contemporary manufacturing industry;
  • Contemporary manufacturing technologies and the talent to use them;
  • Approaches to educating the manufacturing workforce on technology; and
  • Policy prescriptions for the manufacturing talent gap.

The verdict?

Unfortunately, there is no panacea. Part five of the report states that “no single policy prescription is likely to bring about the closing of the talent gap.”

Instead, author Davenport continues, “multiple initiatives working in concert will bring about the needed changes.”

The report dives deep into the necessary initiatives (so it would be prudent for business leaders to download the paper at www.manpower.us/manufacturing).

Davenport concludes with this summary (which places North America in a diminished light): “Neither U.S. nor Canadian governments are sufficiently focused on the problem of – and the solutions to – the manufacturing talent gap. As with educational programs, there are some ‘points of light’ that are worthy of emulation and expansion. But there is a much greater need for competitions, certification programs, long-term funding mechanisms, and the sharing of approaches and content across branches and levels of government.”

It appears time for shareholders to be a bit more proactive – and indeed assiduously active – about their investments.

“Perhaps,” continues Davenport, “the most important job government organizations can perform is to convene the multiple stakeholders involved in this issue, and encourage them to cooperate and innovate through multiple concurrent approaches. Governments will not solve the problem of insufficient advanced manufacturing skills by themselves, but they are surely a convener and facilitator of those who can develop solutions.”

Essentially, the questions that come out of this report are “why?” and then “why not?”

And what is this “Human Age” thing? Well, previous eras (such as the “Bronze Age”) were characterized by tools and technology that enabled a conqueror tribe. By embracing the newest recognized resource – humans – a new-breed conquering company can rise by combining new technology with (and this is critical) talent and education.

A perceptive and flexible human resource manager could become the new leader.

About Manpower
Manpower is the global leader in contingent and permanent recruitment workforce solutions, providing the personal flexibility and agility businesses need with a continuum of staffing solutions. Manpower is part of the ManpowerGroup family of companies, which also includes Experis, ManpowerGroup Solutions and Right Management. For more information, visit www.manpower.us.