Although it is well known that industries are facing an acute shortage of skilled workforce, overcoming the challenges of the skill gap requires a thoughtfully planned and targeted approach that carefully addresses this problem from all aspects.
Skills have become an essential trait for an individual to be employable in any industry. With the growing skill gap faced by industries, the importance of operations technology (OT) and skill development trainings in solving the industrial skill gap has increased considerably. A study conducted by Deloitte predicts that within the next decade, around 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will be created and as many as 2.4 million of those vacancies are likely to remain unfilled due to the shortage of relevant skills. However, what is more shocking is the fact that this challenge is further exacerbated by swift pace in technological advancements.
Today’s new labor force is expected to possess a predefined set of technical skills or qualities that are significantly different from those required in the past. Sadly, this is the prime reason behind the abundance of vacancies available, particularly in the manufacturing industries and is not merely due to the shortage of workforce in the quantitative sense. The requirement that skilled employees had deep knowledge of specific applications and processes was essential in the past. However, specialization has become more complex and qualifications have become more and more complicated as of late.
At one point of time, workers had just the basic knowledge of individual machines, Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) designing and programming, panel wiring, troubleshooting and so on. Their skillset was very specific that revolved around specific elements of a process or a machine. For instance, in the case of a bottle filling plant, if any of the numerous procedures or operations go wrong, it may result in numerous breakages and downtime. Hence, it is very essential to ensure that the machines and processes are running smoothly and flawlessly. Due to this, the workers skills have to be fine-tuned to meet the precise aspect of production.
Due to the outset of technological advancements of late, the machines and processes that ran predominantly on proprietary systems have completely changed in their architecture and protocols from what they used to be. New technologies are regularly being leveraged in the manufacturing and production industries. Consequently, these industries require individuals with more comprehensive skillset than what they possessed in the past. Having the ability to build a system that’s operational but also integrated with everything else must be part of their skill set.
IT skillset and Industrial Demands
Digital transformation requires many advanced skills related to IT. Due to this, individuals entering the manufacturing industries will need to hold a three to four-year degree in streams like computer science, electronics or mathematics. Although the availability of such graduates in the job-market is surplus, candidates with skills that are pertinent to manufacturing are hard to find among them. Nonetheless, finding candidates who are keen on pursuing careers in manufacturing is also challenging.
It is less likely that manufacturing will be a first option for career choices among young graduates due to a general lack of enthusiasm for it among them. Additionally, even though the core methodologies and procedures used are the same, applying software skills, programming and data analytics in a real-time manufacturing environment can remarkably vary from other fields. Moreover, the initial remuneration offered in this industry may not be as attractive as the ones offered in other fields. However, with time and with relevant experience in the field, individuals are very likely to earn attractive figures.
Schools, colleges and universities impart theoretical knowledge to the students. However, without the appropriate practical knowledge, the individuals may struggle to cope up since there is a significant difference between theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge gained through hands-on experience. At the end of the day, it all comes down to specific, hands-on experience that is needed to properly educate the employees of any organization. In a wider perspective, it is noteworthy to substantiate that learning the basics, being in the environment, having sufficient hands-on experience and understanding how people handle situations within a given frame or field is something that cannot be simply taught in a basic classroom.
Operations Technology (OT) skillset and Industrial Demands
Because of the above listed realities, an increasing number of industrial organizations have arrived at the realization that skill development and operations technology (OT) trainings must be pursued with the same zeal as IT training and education projects.
Not only can maintaining OT expertise help IT personnel make better use of data, but it also ensures that basic, day-to-day activities like maintenance can continue to be performed on legacy assets. Because they will need to service a mix of old and new equipment, this is especially crucial for organisations who are doing gradual automation improvements rather than a wholesale asset replacement.
As per to the observations made by Cox, the looming OT skills gap is more severe than the IT skills gap in many ways, as applicants are scarce and less attention is being paid to the issue. significant number of baby boomers will be retiring in the near future, which could create major business disruptions. The main issue is that a large number of people who are familiar with OT are approaching retirement. This is a big concern that companies need to address, if not, could lead to a catastrophic problem in the future. Cox also alerts that companies that are investing in and adopting new technologies would need to have clear ideas and proper plans to get the old stuff into a newer framework. Failure to do so may backfire if something gets broken and is unable to get fixed on time., which could undoubtedly result in considerable downtime and unwanted, unnecessary expenses.
More internships and apprenticeship-style training should be offered in addition to classroom learning to overcome the IT skills gap in manufacturing. Many contemporary college students pursuing IT-related professions do not regard manufacturing as their preferred career path. This will require cultural changes as well as an institutional adjustment.
Students should also be encouraged to engage in individual study and side projects that prepare them for careers in the manufacturing industry. With the rise of open-source communities and online platforms like Github, it has come to light for students pursuing IT-related employment to include this type of extracurricular work to their resumes.
Depending on the specific sector of manufacturing, the skills required to work there differ. So, manufacturers should provide students and candidates with a competitive advantage in the job market by highlighting this aspect of their industry as a way to demonstrate the skills necessary to work in different industries.
This is particularly the area where SMEClabs comes into play, by offering quality approved skill development and OT trainings relevant to the concerned industry. With over 170 industry-specific training programs spread across eight industries such as Automation, Oil & Gas, Building Management System (BMS), Civil, Embedded System, Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing (MEP), Networking & IT and Financial Technology (FinTech), the training programs are designed and crafted in accordance with international standards by some of the pioneers in various fields. The numerous accolades, accreditations and certifications bestowed on SMEClabs by organizations both nationally and internationally speak about the quality of the training content along with the utmost dedication and sincerity of the training faculty. Come witness the latest and the best skill development and OT trainings from SMEClabs.