Bridging the Manufacturing Skills Gap with Human Resources Solutions

by Marcus Johnson

My Early Learning about Business Success

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for manufacturing. It probably started when I was a kid. My dad would bring me to my family’s printing company on Saturdays. He could do some paperwork (literally on paper) and I could explore the manufacturing area.Bridging the Manufacturing Skills Gap with Human Resources Solutions

I still clearly remember the heady smell of ink, solvent, and pipe smoke. (This was the early 80’s when smoking was still allowed everywhere. Printers seemed to like a smoky workplace). I also remember being amazed with the large printing presses, the giant rolls of paper that could only be moved with a forklift truck, and the rows of printing plates, ready for use on Monday morning.

However, even with all the exciting equipment to see, I always felt something was missing. The men and women who made that equipment work, turning blank paper and tubs of ink into printed pages, were almost always off on Saturdays. At this early age I realized a business principle that has stuck with me ever since. To succeed, you need the right assets, the right business processes and technology, and the right human capital.

Troubling Trends

Considering these early insights, I find the recent reports about a growing skills gap in the manufacturing industry troubling. In particular, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte report that 67% of respondents to a survey of manufacturers claimed a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers; 56% anticipate that the shortage will get worse in the next three to five years. [1] With all the investment in technology, we also have to be concerned about the people skills.

Of course, this skills gap doesn’t mean that we will have whole factories sitting idle. But it does mean that manufacturers are going to have trouble operating at close to full capacity. This opportunity cost affects a business’s bottom line. A manufacturing sector that is not as robust as it could be has a drag on the overall economy.

Closing the Skills Gap

The good news is that we can begin to address this gap. From a public policy perspective, we are seeing the introduction of programs that help manufacturers partner with community colleges to teach students relevant work-related skills. Manufacturing focused non-profits are developing skills-building programs for the unemployed and under-employed.

Moreover, from a business perspective, we are also seeing opportunities where manufacturers can deploy innovative human resource-related capabilities for their own workforces.

  • Competency models which describe the exact skills workers need for their job, as well as the skills they need to develop for career advancement

  • Learning programs which provide formal courses, structured on the job training, and development programs to help workers build new skills or improve existing ones        

  • Workforce planning tools where firms can assess their demand for workers with specific skills against the supply of available talent in the marketplace        

But there’s a missing element for delivering these capabilities. They are all based on a strong technology backbone. Good workforce planning requires the ability to quickly query large amounts of workforce and recruiting data, perform analysis, and visualize the information through dashboards and/or dynamic reports. Needed is the IT expertise for developing and maintaining human resources solutions.        

What IT Can Contribute

When it comes to bridging the skills’ gap, there is an important and ever-growing role for IT. To be effective, competency models need to be easily accessible by employees. A fast, clean employee portal can be the critical driver between competency models that are widely used versus widely ignored. An effective learning program should be part of a learning management system (LMS) which should integrate with other key systems, such as the Human Resources Information System (HRIS).

Oracle offers an array of capabilities for delivering these essential human resources solutions. To highlight a few examples:        

  • Oracle Database 12c can be enabled with In-Memory capabilities, which can accelerate queries by a factor of 100x. Workforce planning and analysis applications are going to be much more effective with accelerated retrieval and processing.
  • Oracle Endeca provides an ability to analyze unstructured data and display it through dynamic reports.      
  • Oracle Webcenter can be used to tailor an effective employee portal. It provides easy access to competency models and other elements that can lead to a positive employee experience.
  • Oracle Fusion Middleware enables seamless application integration. An LMS can do more than just track courses. It can be easily integrated with the HR applications to contribute to an overall talent management solution.

Oracle Consulting Services has the expertise to implement and configure these products, and provide manufacturers with the know-how and insights to start addressing the skills gap in a meaningful manner.        

Closing Questions

In short, it’s time to focus on two key questions. As a manufacturer, are you ready to address the skills gap? Is your technology ready to bridge the gap and help you solve this important business problem? If not, you should start considering your approach, because the skills gap will not close itself.

To learn more about the technology and services described in this post and how they can help you prepare to address the skills gap, please visit www.oracle.com. You may also send an email to consulting_us@oracle.com.



[1] Boiling Point? The Skills Gap in US Manufacturing, The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, 2011, p.1

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