Robot, automation, and AI could plug emerging industry skills gap for digital transformation: Epicor
Businesses agreed they find it easy to attract the right talent. (Photo: Agency)

With over half the industry’s workforce aged over 35, and a third aged over 40, businesses in manufacturing, lumber, distribution and retail are facing a dangerous skills gap on their factory floors, if they fail to recruit new talent before too long. This is one of the findings of the latest research from Epicor Software Corporation.

According to its survey, only a quarter (23%) of businesses agreed they find it easy to attract the right talent, with the right industry knowledge, suggesting they might soon hit crisis point. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Labour, the country’s unemployment rate has dropped to the lowest rate in 17 years1 (3.9%), contributing to a widening skills gap.

Despite recent technology developments—including advancements in , IoT and robotics—business leaders attribute the emerging skills and knowledge gap to the fact that there’s a perception these industries are behind the times. Many businesses in manufacturing, lumber, distribution and retail believe they are perceived as being old-fashioned (23%), and a quarter agrees they are not seen as working within a ‘young person’s industry’ (25%).

At the same time, 32 percent think young people lack the right skills/ experience to work in the industry. One-in-five (22%) believes that the education system simply isn’t doing them any favors primarily because it’s not preparing or encouraging young people into manufacturing.

Implementing new technologies and ways of working could be the answer to both provide the industry with the skills or knowledge needed while encouraging more young talent to consider roles in manufacturing, lumber, distribution, and retail. For example, 41 percent of businesses are implementing some form of technology, because they can automate mundane work (54%), free up people to work on more creative tasks (40%), and can optimize processes faster and more effectively than humans (34%).

41 percent also agreed that young people want the opportunity to work with the latest innovations, so implementing new technology can bring real recruitment benefits as well as business efficiencies for industrial firms. 20 percent said the chance to work with robotics and AI is a big draw for young talent, and 33 percent of millennials want the opportunity to work at the cutting edge of new developments.

Scott Hays, senior vice president, product marketing at Epicor said, “If young talent is being persuaded away from jobs in industry, there’s a serious perception problem that needs to change. Arguably, it is an exciting time to be in industries like manufacturing, distribution, and retail that are poised for digital transformation and are far from old-fashioned. With robotics and AI advancing at a rapid pace, we are seeing the smart factory and warehouse of the future advance quickly. This gives us the perfect opportunity to encourage new skills in the workplace, and future-proof our progress.

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