Changing Workforce

Study: Manufacturers bracing for wave of retirements

By Patti Zarling, for USA Today - Wisconsin

Jun 02, 2017

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Manufacturers throughout Northeastern Wisconsin are preparing for what could be a severe shortage of workers as current employees reach retirement age.

A recent study by the NEW Manufacturing Alliance found the average age of production workers in regional factories is 43, and average age of engineers in those businesses is 40.

What’s more, over a third of workers in those businesses surveyed are 56 or older and reaching retirement age.

“Looking at that age group, companies need to start planning,” said Sonia Otte, a human resources consultant with Sargento Foods, after a meeting of the NEW Manufacturing Alliance in Manitowoc. She sits on the group’s Retired Worker task force, formed in 2017 to help members develop strategies for coping with the loss of experienced workers.

The organization surveyed members in March and April. Fifty-five companies completed the detailed survey, and those businesses employ more than 30,000 people or 28 percent of the manufacturing workforce in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The survey showed 37 percent of maintenance mechanics and millwrights are over the age of 56, as are 35 percent of electricians, 33 percent of service technicians, 33 percent of machinists and 33 percent of electro-mechanics.

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