Changing Workforce

Perspective: Manufacturers struggling to find physically fit workers

By Megan McHugh, Northwestern University, for MarketWatch

Mar 21, 2018

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The successful expansion of manufacturing will be tied, in large part, to the ability of manufacturing communities to supply a high-quality workforce. But manufacturers are already struggling to fill more than 350,000 job vacancies. Manufacturers report that attracting and retaining a quality workforce is their biggest challenge.

Although recruiting challenges are often attributed to a “skills gap” or widespread drug use, our research suggests that there is also a “fitness gap.” Manufacturing jobs are physically demanding, involve long and often unpredictable hours and require intense focus. Several managers from large manufacturing plants told us that many new hires, particularly younger ones, lack the focus, physical stamina, coping skills and work ethic to succeed in entry-level positions.

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