The Growing Skills Gap in Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing (AM) is set to enhance innovation while providing financial benefits and efficiency improvements across the engineering landscape. Yet, despite this vast potential, the skills gap in AM — and STEM more broadly — poses a threat to the competitiveness of Canadian organizations worldwide.
Additive manufacturing (AM) broadly describes the technologies that build 3D objects by adding layer upon layer of material. This includes 3D printing, rapid prototyping, direct digital manufacturing and layered manufacturing. A growing trend in engineering fields, AM is a cheaper, waste-minimizing form of manufacturing that gives designers improved control over components manufacturing.
As AM takes hold in manufacturing processes, it will become increasingly important for Canadians to learn and adopt these practices in order to stay relevant and competitive on a global stage.
Competing in a global arena
The Canadian government has already taken steps to promote AM within the Canadian marketplace. In the past few months, the federal government has invested millions of dollars into additive manufacturing facilities, creating more jobs for Canadians and protecting our global competitiveness.
The May 2018 announcement of a $14 million investment from the federal government plus an additional $7 million grant from the government of Ontario to advanced manufacturing company Burloak Technologies puts that company on the path for global AM leadership. Similarly, the announcement of up to $21.1 million for TEKNA Plasma Systems Inc. from the federal and Quebec governments will allow TEKNA to increase their manufacturing capabilities to remain competitive globally. The projects are set to create 295 and 170 jobs for Canadians, respectively, while promoting AM within the industry.
Overcoming the skills gap
For organizations to stay competitive within their field they must review their workforce structure to take advantage of new technologies and to ensure they’re not left behind. Unfortunately, as the additive manufacturing field grows, there is strong competition for a limited talent pool. Few candidates, paired with constantly evolving AM technologies, materials, and practice, mean employers face growing gaps within their workforce.
To stay competitive globally, and help bridge the skills gap, employers should focus on promotion — evangelizing the benefits of AM will help draw attention to both the innovation itself and the skills required by this new technology. Other ways to help find and develop the talent necessary to take full advantage of AM include:
Training/re-training – Promoting from within can be a great way to help boost colleague moral while bettering your workplace culture. Consider offering online training programs or providing existing employees with financial assistance to develop their knowledge of additive manufacturing technologies.
Education initiatives – Organizations may consider visiting local elementary and secondary schools to promote the STEM fields to today’s youth, and at the same time encouraging the next generation of workers to explore careers in additive manufacturing that they may otherwise disregard.
Apprenticeships – There are many benefits available to employers by partnering with post-secondary institutions to offer apprenticeships for students or graduates within STEM fields. Not only do apprenticeships yield a positive return on investment by creating employable, trained candidates, they also help your organization build a relationship with educational institutions and students in these fields, effectively pipelining new talent for future employment.
The lack of suitable candidates in this field highlights the increasing importance of education, training and skills as AM technology continues to transform many industries. Interested in a STEM position to join the revolution? Talk to your local Roevin office today!