Automation and the Skills Gap: Hiring for the Present and the Future

SACA - Increasing Automation Makes Hiring More Challenging

Looking to add a highly skilled automation engineer to your company? Finding one may be more difficult than you anticipate—and not for the reason you might think. Although highly skilled workers of all kinds appear to be in short supply these days, the real problem may lie in how employers are communicating their needs to potential workers.

According to a recent IndustryWeek article by Ryan Secard, “[s]killed job candidates say it’s taking longer to find work, despite huge numbers of open positions in manufacturing, because hiring companies either don’t know what they want or can’t explain it to candidates.”

Could ineffective communication be responsible for making the skills gap even wider? According to Secard, “employers appear to be leaving a gap in the market between the open jobs they say they need to fill and how they’re explaining those opportunities to people seeking new positions.” Moreover, “[t]he issue companies are having with anticipating needed skills…is thanks to automation.”

For example, take a look at a common position many companies need to hire for on a regular basis: maintenance technician. Pretty straightforward, right? Not in today’s automated industrial world! As advanced automation technologies proliferate in the workplace, employers are left to guess about the future. Will they need more or fewer employees down the road? More importantly, what skills will their maintenance technicians need in six, twelve, or eighteen months from now?

Compounding these issues is the fact that more than half of job seekers in a recent survey indicated that they believed “a lack of skills is holding [them] back from finding meaningful employment.” Again, communication could be key, as many job seekers report that job descriptions “often include unrealistic minimum qualifications for relatively low positions.”

What can companies do to improve their communications with potential workers and begin filling the open positions they have? First, they must focus on developing a better understanding of the skills they need to hire for. With so many “job candidates confused and depressed,” “the onus is on companies to articulate the skills they’re looking for.”

Secard’s article notes a couple of approaches companies can take. For example, he points out Siemens AG’s focus on mechatronics skills to find versatile engineers. The idea is that “[a]n engineer trained in mechatronics would be capable with mechanical and electrical engineering, along with enough software engineering to implement both.”

An alternative approach can be found in Deloitte’s use of job canvases. “An example job canvas is split into columns: One for core competencies for the role, two columns for skills or programs expected but which may increase or decrease in importance for the role, and a fourth column specifically dedicated to skills the company anticipates will be necessary for the role in the future.”

How might a job canvas look for a manufacturing engineer position? “The first column may look similar to a traditional job posting…[listing] technical writing, systems knowledge, and product engineering.” “But the last column gives a blueprint for at least how the company expects the role to evolve — in this case, the theoretical manufacturing engineer should expect to later become skilled in data driven decision making, digital twins, and robotics.”

As companies continue to struggle to hire the highly skilled workers they need for a modern industrial workplace that’s more automated than ever, it’s important to remember that there’s yet another approach that companies can take. Look for candidates with industry-standard credentials that prove they already possess the advanced automation skills needed to thrive. For example, if workers possess a certification from the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA), employers can feel confident they’ve already proven they have the knowledge and hands-on skills needed for working with advanced smart automation technologies. SACA has been hard at work collaborating with industry leaders to develop a wide variety of industry-standard certifications that will help employers find workers who possess the advanced connected-systems skills they need to take their businesses to the next level. Be sure to check out SACA and all it has to offer!