Bridging the Skills Gap: 4 Ways to Hire Qualified STEM Candidates for Manufacturing

To stay competitive, the manufacturing industry faces constant pressure to evolve and innovate. This growth starts in the minds of skilled, qualified professionals. 

Unfortunately, manufacturing faces a tremendous skills gap that’s only growing broader with time. A comprehensive industry study by Deloitte projects a dearth of more than 2.4 million skilled positions between 2018-2028, an economic impact of more than $2.5 trillion.

Manufacturing’s skills gap is multifaceted. A ‘silver tsunami’ of retiring workers compounds an already-sparse talent pool. Lagging investments in U.S. STEM education result in fewer qualified workers entering the job market each year. Offshoring, transition into Industry 4.0, and the evolution of the supply chain are all contributors, as well. 

Skilled STEM candidates are worth their weight in gold. The manufacturer who can find, vet, hire, and retain a qualified worker will have a leg up on the competition and the means to continue thriving in the always-evolving manufacturing economy. This means that you need to aggressively pursue these candidates instead of waiting for them to come to you—or your competition. 

Here’s a look at four ways to bridge the skills gap, which are proven successful in exposing companies to STEM-backed candidates. 

1. Internships and externships

Open your factory environment to students interested in it, and you’re more likely to attract and retain them for future employment. Internships and externships with trade schools help students build an affinity for the type of work they’re learning about, and they’re a boon for students, schools, and manufacturing companies. 

By opening your company to students, they’ll get their foot in the door to gainful employment, schools pump their stats on employed graduates, and companies gain access to a valuable young workforce right out of school.

2. Partnerships with universities

Beyond trade schools, manufacturers should also strengthen ties with local universities. This is where you’ll find high-level STEM candidates to staff the growing demand for tech-driven positions in Industry 4.0. 

Data scientists and engineers, programmers, robotics engineers, and more, will all need four-plus-year degrees. When they finally walk across the stage, make sure they’re also walking into a position with your company. As a way to expose them to work experience quicker, you can even hire students before they graduate. 

3. Manufacturing recruitment firms

When you need a plug-and-play solution to fill an immediate vacancy, there’s nothing quicker or more effective than a manufacturing recruitment firm. These firms have access to a siloed talent pool you just won’t find on run-of-the-mill job boards. 

From multi-degreed engineers and IIoT specialists to additive manufacturing leaders and experienced supply chain managers, recruitment firms bring in top-notch manufacturing talent. These candidates often need minimal training and can integrate quickly for real results, fast. When you require peripheral staff to help you innovate, this is also where you’ll find consultants and advisory experts. 

4. Hire and develop in-house

Slow and steady wins the race, and it’s this method that will ultimately close the skills gap. Hiring candidates through traditional means from a broad talent pool may not seem immediately appealing for a company that needs STEM experts—but there are major advantages. 

Hiring intelligent individuals with engrained soft skills means being able to mold them to your needs. In-house training programs, continuing education opportunities, and hands-on learning go a long way in developing a well-qualified manufacturing staff. It’s never too late for people to learn!


The manufacturing skills gap will persist into the next decade. It’s up to manufacturers to bridge it within their own companies through creative hiring and training. Instead of going without or making due, consider the four methods mentioned here for creating your own STEM-backed workforce—one that’s ready to succeed in spite of industry headwinds.

Drew Neisser