Solving the Workforce Gap Will Take New Perspectives

September 10, 2021 | Iowa's Ongoing Manufacturing Workforce Shortage Mike O’Donnell, Associate Director, Iowa State University CIRAS,

Iowa manufacturing is thriving. Except, we just can’t seem to find enough people. Our population growth has been slow and consistent for over 50 years. The need for more people in manufacturing has remained constant. Manufacturers are problem solvers by nature, yet the solution to this problem has long-evaded most businesses.

For complex problems, reframing can help drive new solutions.

Instead of asking “How can we hire more people?”, try asking “How can we grow our business with the same number of people as today?”. This perspective can lead

to new challenges, including:

• How can I offer meaningful careers at my business so that we retain and grow the best employees?

• Who is being left behind in our community, and how can we provide opportunities for them?

• What parts of my business are not core to the value I offer, and how can I eliminate or re-source those, freeing up employees?

• What technologies are available to automate or improve business, manufacturing, and logistics processes?

• How can I engage with my community to build excitement for manufacturing and STEM careers?

There is no single solution to the workforce gap. Strong efforts are underway across Iowa and the nation to show people the extraordinary opportunities in manufacturing.

These efforts alone will not solve the problem. Instead, plan on taking some time to step back, reassess, and reframe the problem to keep your business thriving.