With growing confidence in the future of the economy, more American manufacturers plan on hiring in the next year than at any time in the last five. The 58% of industrial employers who say they expect to add workers is also the second highest percentage of the last 10 years.
The only thing standing in the way of some of the nation’s largest manufacturers from hiring the workers is finding those with the skills they need. Among the usual worries about taxes, government regulation, and foreign competition, one-in-five industrial manufacturers see the lack of qualified workers as a barrier to their growth.
What they need most, the manufacturers said in a survey by the accounting and business consulting giant PwC, are middle managers (said 70%) and skilled labor (67%). This need, and the expansion plans, will mean growth for search firms both in the manufacturing sector and those who recruit for specific occupations.
In the next 12 months, the manufacturers reported, they’ll be looking to hire in engineering (48%), R&D (33%), financial/bookkeeping (32%), and others, in addition to manufacturing skills.
Behind the hiring plans is a growing optimism in the U.S. economy and rising confidence that the global economy is also improving.
The quarterly “Manufacturing Barometer” from PwC says 60% of the surveyed industrial manufacturers were optimistic about the U.S. economic future. Last year, PwC’s third quarter survey found only 37% expressing optimism. That optimism, coupled with the 82% expecting positive revenue growth of 4.2% is fueling plans for hiring and new investments. On average the 60 very large manufacturers who were surveyed (average workforce size = 78,586) expect to add an average of 550 workers each, or .7% of their workforce.
PwC included a special section on manufacturer’s human capital challenges in its Barometer report. 77% of the respondents said they have a need to fill skills gaps. To do that, a majority of the companies plan a major hiring initiative, while 85% plan at least some specific hiring effort. They also plan to use outside contractors, with 20% of the companies preparing a major initiative to do that. Another 68% have “some plans” to use contractors.
For nearly 9 out of 10 of the manufacturers, talent management (“the development of talented/skilled workers,” according to the report) as a top 10 priority. Nearly half (47%) consider it a top five priority.