How to go about upskilling and reskilling your manufacturing workforce in 2022

The dawn of Industrial Revolution 4.0 came long before covid happened. Manufacturers had sensed the wave long ago, thereby setting significant budgets apart for reskilling and upskilling their workforce.

The pandemic not only forced employers to increase these budgets, but also made them re-consider the areas of application.

As an employer, you might be worried about the uncertainties ahead. There’s an urgent need for the global workforce to figure out and learn valuable skills asap so as to stay suitable and valuable to companies.

Surveys all around the world have been hinting at how a major chunk of the workforce will need to change occupations or go hard on reskilling and upskilling to stay relevant. The McKinsey Global Institute estimated the same in 2017, i.e., 14% of the global workforce will need to acquire new skills by 2030 or be jobless. This too seemed far, but covid brought it near.

Automation and Artificial Intelligence continue to knock at every industry’s door. Let’s plan how you can prepare for the same at your manufacturing firm.

First, what exactly is upskilling and reskilling?

Reskilling has all to do with horizontal growth. It simply means acquiring various new skills so that one can take up different work responsibilities.

Upskilling on the other hand goes vertical. It implies levelling up your game at a particular skill, thereby opening gates to newer opportunities in similar job profiles.

Why Invest in Upskilling and Reskilling Programs?

Obviously, leaving behind your current employee and hiring another apt candidate sounds somewhat immoral. But that’s not exactly why you should invest in an old employee.

Hiring New Talent Reskilling and Upskilling
Newcomer takes his/ her own time to getfamiliar. Already aware of internal processes.
Tens of thousands of $ required for advertising, recruiting, onboarding, joining bonuses, etc. Training programs typically cost way less.
Time & energy-consuming. Post-training productivity makes the time & resource input worth it.

Backed by various studies, it is very clear that reskilling and upskilling programs are way more cost and time effective than hiring processes for new candidates.

How are the manufacturing industry’s demands changing with time?

The most obvious answer to the above is that technology has entered almost every market with a blast. Machinery of all sizes has already replaced major manual work. More recently, complexities like automation, machine learning, and artificial language have taken machinery usage to the next level.

While there’s a general perception that technology kills jobs, we’ve to notice that it brings in newer ones too; those that require less physical work and more of a creative and technical quotient.

With the rapid rate of digitalization adoption, it might seem hard to prepare your traditional workforce for the same. You cannot expect a line assembler to suddenly turn into a python coder. Re-skilling/ up-skilling is a step-by-step game.

Let’s consider a simple example. Suppose XYZ automobiles is a traditional factory group situated in Ontario. They have decided to innovate their work processes using wireless tech, allowing advanced communication capabilities within their equipment. A simple training program can be incorporated for the line workers in order to teach them how to access and operate equipment through their own mobile devices even from a distance.

What does the future look like?

While attending to his job requirements, if all a man does is use his physical strength, soon he will be replaced by a machine that does the same work more efficiently and swiftly.

Future (even present) job opportunities at manufacturing industries will majorly include the likes of the following: SupplyChain Analyst, Digital Architect, Smart Q.A. Manager, Cybersecurity Strategist, Roboticist Technician, etc.

If you take the above names in front of your grandparents, they’ll most probably assume that the respective company is a big tech firm. A manufacturing hiring for a data scientist won’t seem believable.

How to go about introducing re-skilling/ up-skilling schemes?

If you have a relatively older pool of candidates, take slow, effective steps. However fast the speed of digitization might be, change happens gradually. Your training programs do not need to be hypercomplex. Introducing something as simple as a workshop that teaches how to assemble, operate and troubleshoot 3D printers can do wonders too.

Offering different re-skilling & up-skilling programs as an employer is gonna be very beneficial. This will not only ensure that your employees’ skillsets are polished, but will also attract young job-seekers due to the career enhancement angle.

Figure out what your future needs look like, what skillset it demands, and how you can go about training your workforce for the same if required.

What skills do I need to prioritize?

While your skillset requirement heavily depends on your niche, company size, machinery usage, future problems, and output goals; knowing the industry trends will do no harm.

Employers from various manufacturing industries hunt with an eagle eye for candidates whose skillset consists of a combination of the latest soft and technical skills. Use these trends as the pivot around which your training planning will happen.

Hard Skills

  1. Practical Experience: Your employees learn the best while they’re in the field. Your training should enhance and improve their work experience. For ex: showcasing easier ways for completing daily chores using small-sized machinery.
  2. IoT handling: As you introduce more and more machinery into your inventory, having a workforce that can easily manage these IoT devices is a must.
  3. Digital Fluency: Work upon improving your workforce’s aptitude for reading and understanding digital information.
  4. Programming: Code is the future. When machines will take over, only those who know how to talk to them will have a job. Proficiency with programming languages and debugging is a notable skill that you should encourage your employees to learn.
  5. Troubleshooting: If your employee can learn to figure out what’s wrong and find apt solutions, that’s a keeper.
  6. Big Data Analysis: Humongous datasets need analysts to make sense of things and infer relevant findings. Data is everywhere and the manufacturing industry is no exception. If you have a team of in-house analysts, encourage the folks to learn advanced analytical techniques.

Soft Skills

  1. Quick Adaptability: Regular quizzes, workshops, and other unique ideas can help in enhancing the learning quotient of your team.
  2. Creative Thinking/ Problem Solving: Special programs can be introduced to regularly test and improve upon your employee’s cognitive skills. This will ensure that your key players readily respond to the need for redesign and innovation.
  3. Community and Well-Being: Special programs focused on bringing your team together as one family are crucial to ensure effective collaboration.
  4. Adaptability and Resilience: Support your employee in building self-confidence and self-resilience so that they are not troubled during a time of uncertainty. Encourage them to view the new demands of the industry as learning opportunities.
  5. Personal Toolkit: Equip your workforce with customized toolkits to manage work-life balance, personal boundaries, and mental well-being.



The pandemic affected every aspect of human life, both personal and professional. As one of the hardest-hit industries, manufacturing needs to adapt at a relatively faster rate. Be open to change, focus on evolving consumer demands, welcome technology with both arms, and you’ll be good to go.

The skill gap challenge is real, and you need to rethink how you operate, train, and hire. Robots running the world sounds fearful, but there will always be jobs for the highly skilled. Encourage your employees to continuously learn to supervise various digitally powered tasks and apply cognitive skills in places where robots cannot.