Three months ago, IndustryWeek published an article with the following headline: “Factory Skills Gap Could Spell Trouble for Trump’s Jobs Plan”. What a different world it seems now since that. However, perhaps not for every industry, or every issue. 

For example, let’s go back to the content of that article published on February 2nd. It revealed some research that “four-fifths of more than 400 U.S. executives surveyed said that a shortage of sufficiently skilled workers will affect their companies in the next 12 months.” So how will the return to work post-COVID affect the skills gap that companies were already experiencing. 

It’s hard to know just yet, but there are a few possible scenarios as to what the economy will look like as it bounces back from the impacts of COVID-19, and how it could affect the skills gap. 

Scenario 1: V-shaped economy

In a V shaped economic rebound, the economy would come roaring back with a return to employment crunch immediately. Were this was to happen, the effects of it combined with a potential re-expansion of the manufacturing sector at home, we would expect to see an exasperation of the skills gap. 

How to respond: Further emphasis on training a multi-skilled labor force would be needed to combat the effects of the massive labor demands.

Scenario 2: U-shaped economy

In a U shaped economy, the recovery period will be slow for a short period of time, then quickly start to rebound. This is the most likely scenario if a vaccine is introduced in the fall meaning the economic rebound would take place in 2021. If the economy does grow fast once the rebound starts, the skills gap would closely mirror that of the V shaped economy. The difference here is that in a U-shaped economy there is an opportunity to fill some positions that would have been difficult in the past. 

How to respond: Take immediate action to plan for how you will hire, train, and onboard new employees.

Scenario 3: A slow economic recovery

In a slow recovery, the economy will stagnate or grow at a slow rate for some time. In this case there will be opportunities for companies to complete some hiring and the pressure of finding qualified skilled workers would ease. If this scenario was to persist for two or more years, the skill gap crunch will be reduced to a manageable rate. 

How to respond: Focus on hiring qualified skilled-workers, and improve training measures in order to maintain their skills. 

Scenario 4: None of the above

The impact of Covid on manufacturing and skills-gap could take a hundred different twists and turns. In many cases the impact might be sector-specific. For example, while automakers stopped production during the crisis, food production and packaging has continued and even escalated. The Oil and Gas industry, as we all know, was hit hard by COVID-19, with oil prices at one point even dropping to negative prices. So the recovery period of that sector is much more unclear than say, the pharmaceutical industry or logistics (UPS, Fedex, etc) sector, which have continued to operate at full capacity throughout all of this. 

How to respond: It’s hard to be prepared for anything, but listen to the experts, follow trends, plan where you can, and be open whatever the new normal will look like. 

It is likely that in the short term there will be a lateral movement in skilled labor from one sector to the other until the market stabilises and the economy goes back to normal growth patterns.

In the long run, however, the trends for automation and demand in the electrical field to have highly skilled troubleshooting experts will continue, especially as plants reshore or retool. In addition, the ability to graduate more qualified technicians will go through a short period of stress as schools retool to go online and find ways to teach and assess new staff.

Regardless of what scenario may shape up, the trend for qualified electricians that can work in an industrial setting will likely continue, and the need to train them online is a trend that will take shape. 

What you are seeing when it comes to the skills gap and post-COVID? How are you planning on addressing the future of the skills gap? Let us know at [email protected] 

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