Dealing with Labor Shortage in the Light Manufacturing Industry

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Manufacturing forms the backbone of economies in the United States, from producing consumer goods to creating essential components for advanced technologies.

Light manufacturing sectors across the United States have grappled with an increasingly acute shortage of skilled labor.

This shortage manifests in various forms, from needing more entry-level workers to a deficit of experienced professionals in specialized fields.

Egret Consulting conducted a survey targeting Owners, CEOs, presidents, and Human Resources Managers to investigate the impact of these shortages on the Lighting Industry and identify the departments most affected.

Egret requested each organization explain which seniority levels experienced the most deficiencies.

For higher-level positions, companies are looking across various industries and providing soft-skill training to help candidates transition to the Lighting Industry.

Forty percent (40%) of respondents are exploring other types of manufacturing to find talent, such as automotive, other mechanical products, semiconductors, electronics, industrial, machinery repair, and metal-based products.

Fifteen percent (15%) are tapping into the tech industry, where an estimated 300,000 people are looking for employment.

Ten percent (10%) are recruiting from electrical distributors, retailers, and the medical industry, where employees may be experiencing burnout due to the pandemic.

Five percent (5%) are sourcing talent from the software and hospitality industries.

The labor force participation rate has been impacted by retirements, particularly those that may not have occurred without the influence of the pandemic.

With many baby boomers reaching retirement age, a considerable portion of the manufacturing workforce is leaving.

This exodus of experienced workers has resulted in a notable skills gap, which is proving challenging to fill, especially given the evolving nature of manufacturing technologies and processes.

Altering the perception of manufacturing careers is essential in addressing the labor shortage.

Outdated stereotypes of manufacturing as labor-intensive and low-skilled work have discouraged many individuals, particularly from younger generations, from pursuing careers in the field.

Demographic shifts, especially in developed economies, are a key contributing factor to the labor shortage in light manufacturing.

The need for morality in textile and apparel manufacturing disrupts the production of clothing, textiles, and fashion items, leading to delays, increased labor costs, and potential declines in product quality.

A labor shortage in the food processing industry impacts the production and packaging of various food products, including snacks, beverages, and baked goods.

It may result in potential food safety hazards.

Labor scarcity in electronics manufacturing affects the production of electronic components, consumer electronics, and other electrical devices, requiring skilled personnel for tasks such as printed circuit board assembly, soldering, quality testing, and equipment maintenance.

The demand for more experienced workers in this sector results in production bottlenecks, longer lead times, and potential quality concerns in electronic products.

In furniture manufacturing, a lack of workers disrupts the production of items such as tables, chairs, cabinets, and beds, with skilled employees needed for carpentry, woodworking, finishing, and assembly.

The labor shortage in this field leads to production delays, higher expenses, and possibly reduced product quality.

In the toy industry, a need for more labor results in delays in product launches and potential quality concerns in toy items.

Proficient individuals are essential for toy design, molding, painting, assembly, and quality control tasks.

A labor shortage in small appliance manufacturing affects the production of household items like blenders, toasters, coffee makers, and vacuum cleaners, with talented employees necessary for assembling, quality testing, and equipment maintenance.

This sector’s need for more skilled labor leads to longer times and possible quality problems in small appliance goods.

The labor shortage in light manufacturing results in increased operational costs, decreased competitiveness, and a loss of market share in an increasingly globalized marketplace.

It also hinders businesses’ ability to meet customer demand, fulfill orders promptly, and adapt to changing market conditions.

A decline in the light manufacturing workforce leads to reduced economic growth and diminished innovation within a country’s industrial sector.

The ripple effects of the labor shortage extend beyond manufacturing, affecting related industries such as logistics, transportation, and retail.

Emerging economies require more infrastructure, improved access to education and training, and face competition from low-cost manufacturing hubs.

Strategic Solutions and Responses:

1. Workforce Development Programs

Investing in workforce development programs is essential for cultivating a pipeline of skilled workers in light manufacturing industries.

These programs can encompass apprenticeships, vocational training, on-the-job learning opportunities, and partnerships between educational institutions and businesses.

Research indicates that companies that invest in effective training and workforce development see significant benefits, including a 15 percent increase in employee productivity, a 26 percent decrease in employee turnover, a 20 percent reduction in employee absenteeism, and a 65 percent rise in share prices.Labor shortage in light manufacturing industry, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Solutions for labor shortage in light manufacturing

Workforce development programs can bridge the skills gap and empower workers to thrive in the evolving manufacturing landscape by equipping them with the necessary skills and competencies.

2. Promoting STEM Education

Promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is crucial for nurturing the next generation of manufacturing professionals.

The federal government enacted the CHIPS and Science Act to boost local production of small electronic parts crucial for cars and electronic gadgets.

This legislation introduces tax benefits and financial support for companies looking to establish or enhance semiconductor manufacturing plants.

The allocated funds reportedly include $52.7 billion for semiconductor research, development, and training of workers.

By encouraging students to pursue STEM disciplines and providing hands-on learning experiences, educational institutions can inspire interest in manufacturing careers and equip individuals with the technical knowledge required to succeed in the industry.

Collaboration between schools, universities, and industry stakeholders can help align curriculum with industry needs and foster a talent pipeline for the future.

3. Reskilling and Upskilling Initiatives

Given the rapid pace of technological change in manufacturing, reskilling and upskilling initiatives are vital for ensuring the existing workforce remains relevant and adaptable.

The National Association of Manufacturers reports that 60% of manufacturing companies are enhancing current training initiatives or developing new ones to address the increasing skills gap.

Businesses can offer training programs, workshops, and certifications to help employees acquire new skills, stay abreast of emerging technologies, and enhance their job performance.

A research study in the garment industry explored the significance of factory efficiency and productivity.

The findings indicated that measures like employee training and enforcing strict quality standards during production substantially enhanced efficiency and productivity.

Following successful improvements in efficiency and productivity, the manufacturing costs for an order of 250,000 T-shirts could be decreased by 13,500 USD.

At the same time, other expenses like inventory, transportation, and documentation could be reduced by 15,000 USD.

By investing in employees’ continuous learning and development, companies can boost retention rates, improve productivity, and foster a culture of innovation within the organization.

4. Diversifying Recruitment Strategies

Light manufacturing businesses must adopt inclusive recruitment strategies that appeal to individuals from various backgrounds and demographics to attract a diverse and talented workforce.

Despite constituting nearly half of the U.S. labor force, Deloitte reports that women represent only 27% of manufacturing employees.

Light manufacturers can tap into a diverse pool of talent and foster long-term growth by removing obstacles and establishing opportunities for women to excel in typically male-dominated positions.

This may involve partnering with community organizations, supporting initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion, and offering competitive compensation and benefits packages to attract top talent.

By fostering a workplace culture of diversity and equity, businesses can enhance employee engagement, creativity, and collaboration, leading to a more resilient and dynamic workforce.

5. Employ Foreign Workers

The EB-3 visa offers a pathway for unskilled or low-skilled workers to legally immigrate to the United States for employment opportunities in light manufacturing industry.

The EB-3 visa can significantly address the labor shortage in light manufacturing sectors by providing a means for employers to fill critical labor gaps with foreign workers.

Employers in the United States facing challenges in finding qualified local workers to fill unskilled positions in light manufacturing may turn to the EB-3 visa program.

In light manufacturing, where there is often a demand for workers in roles such as assemblers, machine operators, production workers, and similar positions that do not require high levels of formal education or specialized skills, the EB-3 visa can be a valuable tool for employers seeking to address labor shortages. Labor shortage in light manufacturing industry, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Solutions for labor shortage in light manufacturing

By sponsoring foreign workers through the EB-3 program, manufacturing businesses can access a larger pool of potential employees to fill essential roles and support their production processes.

Labor shortage in light manufacturing industry, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Solutions for labor shortage in light manufacturing

The Bottom Line

The need for more skilled labor in the light manufacturing sector poses significant challenges to businesses and economies, impacting production capacities, innovation, and competitiveness.

Factors such as demographic shifts, changing perceptions of manufacturing careers, and technological advancements contribute to this labor shortage.

Strategic solutions like investing in workforce development programs, promoting STEM education, reskilling and upskilling initiatives, diversifying recruitment strategies, and employing foreign workers through programs like the EB-3 visa can help bridge the skills gap and ensure a sustainable workforce in the manufacturing industry. 

Collaboration between educational institutions, industry stakeholders, and government bodies is crucial in aligning training programs with industry needs and fostering a talent pipeline for the future.

By investing in employees’ continuous learning and development, businesses can improve productivity, reduce costs, and enhance efficiency in manufacturing processes.

Embracing diversity and inclusivity in recruitment practices can also lead to a more dynamic and resilient workforce, driving innovation and growth within the manufacturing sector.

Addressing the labor shortage in light manufacturing requires a comprehensive and strategic approach that integrates short-term solutions and long-term initiatives to ensure a thriving and competitive manufacturing industry.

As the industry evolves and adapts to changing market dynamics, businesses must proactively address labor shortages and skills gaps.

By staying abreast of emerging technologies, market trends, and workforce needs, manufacturers can position themselves for success in a competitive global marketplace.

Through ongoing investment in talent development, collaboration, and innovation, the manufacturing sector can overcome the challenges associated with the shortage of skilled labor in light manufacturing and pave the way for sustainable growth and prosperity in the industry.


1 Egret Consulting. “Lighting Labor Shortage”. shortage in light manufacturing industry, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Solutions for labor shortage in light manufacturing

2 Tia Glave & Jill Stuber. “Develop Your People or Bust: 15 Stats You Need for 2024 Budget Requests”.

3 International Enviro Guard. “The State of Manufacturing in 2024”.

4 Id.Labor shortage in light manufacturing industry, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Solutions for labor shortage in light manufacturing

5 OSHIMA. “Productivity in Garment Manufacturing: Challenges and Solutions in 2024”.

6 Arjun Chandar. Training Industry. “The Necessity of Training and Development for Manufacturing Workers in 2024”.

7 EB3 Work.

8 USCIS. “Employment-Based Immigration: Third Preference EB-3”.

Labor shortage in light manufacturing industry, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Solutions for labor shortage in light manufacturing