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Every year, Labor Day serves as an important reminder to recognize and appreciate the contributions of American workers. The past year and a half has arguably been one of the most unsettling times for wage earners, making their accomplishments during this period particularly meaningful.
As a distributor of maintenance, repair, operating, and production supplies, the success of Industrial Supply Company and the customers we serve is very much dependent upon a wide-range of supply chain workers. Increased demand for products, such as personal protective equipment, as well as Covid-19 outbreaks and a boom in e-commerce, put new stressors on the people who manufacture, transport, load, and stock sought after products.
Significantly, supply chain workers were often operating in businesses that were understaffed. Large numbers of unfilled supply chain job openings predate the pandemic, but the past 18 months certainly spotlighted the difficulties of working without a full team.
Reports from two different branches of the supply chain—manufacturing and transportation—demonstrate the scope of the problem and suggest that solutions will require new approaches to both recruitment and retention.
In a June 2021 study, Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute outline the present state of employment in the U.S. manufacturing industry. The authors note that currently, there are 500,000 manufacturing jobs that are unfilled. By 2030, they expect that number to grow to an astounding 2.1 million.
To explain the industry’s inability to hire qualified workers, the study points in part to a “skills gap,” in which prospective employees do not yet have the training, experience, and licensing required for jobs that are rapidly being changed by technical innovations. Without efforts to re-skill current and potential manufacturing workers, Deloitte estimates a negative impact to the US economy of more than $1 trillion.
On the transportation side of the supply chain, we see similar labor shortages. Before the start of the pandemic, the American Trucking Association’s analysis of unfilled positions showed a 60,800 shortfall for the number of drivers needed in 2019. This number has only increased, and the association estimates that over the next decade, about 1.1 million new drivers will need to be hired.
Many in the trucking industry note the relatively high average age of its truck drivers as one reason for the shortage, as an aging fleet retires without younger workers to take their place. Outreach efforts to groups who are underrepresented in the profession, such as women, aim to broaden the age demographics and bring down the number of unfilled driving positions.
New recruitment efforts and enhanced training opportunities will go a long way to address supply chain labor shortages. What also will help is a better understanding of the critical role supply chain workers play in our economy, since people are more likely to seek jobs that are valued and respected.
At Industrial Supply, we certainly know how important these workers are. Quite simply, we can’t do our job without them. Labor Day gives us the opportunity to honor the people who labor in understaffed and uncertain work environments to keep our supply chains moving and our economy strong. Thank you!