Manufacturing as an industry has taken some hits over the years, but it’s always proven to be very resilient. Even with the pandemic, the threat of a recession, a retiring (and limited) workforce, as well as supply chain issues, manufacturing came out stronger on the other side of it all. In fact, Deloitte forecasted a 2.5% growth in GDP for 2023. How about that for resilience?

Listed below are four ways manufacturing will stay strong and come out ahead in 2023… and beyond.


5G networks, cyber security, cloud adoption, IOT (the Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality), and VR (Virtual Reality) are all investments that manufacturers are finding value in. The implementation of this technology enhances efficiency and effectiveness across the production floor.

Supply Chain Review:

The pandemic really brought out flaws in supply chain management as it relates to manufacturers. As a result, companies are reassessing their supply chain and looking toward ways to become more supply chain resilient. By diversifying vendors and vendor locations, manufacturers will still experience disruptions but not at the levels witnessed in 2020.

Smart Factories:

Manufacturers are seeing that implementing smart technology in their production process reduces operating costs while also improving efficiency. And rather than implement it piece-by-piece, manufacturers are adopting the technology system-wide, wherever possible.

Data & Analytics:

Manufacturers are focused on collecting data. Data, when combined with analytics and technology, provides manufacturers with an opportunity to understand their operations more accurately than ever before. This allows them to see actionable insights in real time without high costs and long waits. In fact, this market is forecasted to grow by 16.5% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) between 2019 and 2026.

What It All Means:

So, what does this mean?

In short, it means that skilled trade work isn’t going away. It means skilled trades workers will still be needed because manufacturing will continue to prove its resiliency and, as a result, continue to grow.

Join the FlexTrades team today to experience top notch pay, the opportunity to travel, and the ability to work and learn new skills with some of the greatest manufacturers in the United States. If you’re new(er) to manufacturing, don’t worry – we have that covered too. Join our ReTool team for the opportunity to upskill and train for the dream job you desire. And if you’re a manufacturer yourself, consider FlexTrades as a labor solutions provider.

The skilled labor shortage in America is a growing problem that requires our immediate time and attention. It is a problem that was strengthened by COVID-19, the great resignation, and a myriad of other issues that we’ll discuss in a few minutes. But how bad is the skilled labor shortage, really, and what can a company like yours do to overcome it?

According to a study conducted in 2022 by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 8 million skilled trade jobs were lost in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, which spanned much of 2020, 2021 and 2022. In the time since, about half of those jobs have been filled, but what about the remaining 4 million vacancies that continue to mar industries like manufacturing, transportation, and construction? Is there any immediate or long-term relief in sight? The answers to those questions are… complicated, for lack of a better phrase. Let me explain.

No singular, defining reason for the skilled labor shortage can be given without serious scrutiny, and before we seek to fully understand what’s driving this complicated issue, we will first need to spend a few minutes looking deeper into the primary factors that are causing the problem.

Problem 1: There aren’t enough qualified candidates

COVID-19, the great resignation, the rise of remote work, a decline in apprenticeship programs, retiring baby boomers, the elimination of shop classes, stagnant wages, and dwindling enthusiasm for labor-intensive work among younger generations are all a part of the skilled labor shortage we face in the United States. This shortage, in turn, translates to fewer qualified applicants for every skilled labor career available right now. Too many jobs and not enough qualified workers, that’s the crux of the problem.

Problem 2: The false perception of skilled work

Fifty years ago, choosing a career in the skilled trades meant that you had a steady job, a decent paycheck, solid health benefits, and the means to be able to provide for yourself and for your family. But the great steel mill closings throughout much of the northeast from 1980 – 1988 were anything but kind to the perceptions we place on skilled labor careers.

For many born between the years of 1975 – 2005, a career in skilled labor is considered a “fallback career,” or rather a job you take only if you can’t find anything less labor intensive that suits you. This idea is completely ridiculous, and shame on our fathers for teaching us to believe that a four-year degree was always the better choice.

Many of today’s skilled labor careers offer excellent pay, benefits, job security and a clear-cut path to promotion and advancement. In fact, there are companies like FlexTrades that not only pay technicians well, they also offer the freedom to choose what assignment they take on and where… bridging the skills gap and offering flexibility to its employees at the same time.

FlexTrades offers an immediate, no-brainer-type of solution to the skilled labor shortages we face, so why aren’t more companies taking advantage of this model? That’s a great segway into problem number three.

Problem 3: Our fathers failed us and we, in turn, failed you

I am a journalist by trade who entered the marketing world shortly after the U.S. economy went belly up in 2008. And I hate to admit this because I’m partially to blame, but our parents, and other people in positions of influence and prestige, have failed skilled laborers.

We have failed you because our father’s failed to teach us that by bypassing a four-year degree you could study a skilled trade, graduate relatively debt free and have a promising career waiting for you after getting out of school.

We have failed you because we pushed the idea that getting a degree, landing a corporate job, and making a career outside of the skilled trades was the better choice.

We have failed you because we are the product of a liberal educational system that was never meant, or designed, for skilled tradespeople.

We have failed you because we did not create, educate, or promote insightful content about what it truly means to be a skilled laborer.

We have failed you because, at our very core, we are engrained to push the corporate agenda at all costs to keep profit margins up and expenses down.

That’s all on us… not you. It’s our collective bad, and I think it’s high time that we change the way people think about skilled trades.

Problem 4: Our educational system is broken

When I was growing up, I was taught that to land a good job and build a good life for myself that I needed a college degree. I have two of them, a B.A. in Literature and a M.A. in Journalism.

Six years of schooling and $100,000+ in debt later, and not only do I question the wisdom of my father, but I also question the faulty logic his generation held when educating children about what it means to be successful.

Our educational system is broken when it has failed to teach us the value that comes with building something tangible, with using your hands and a little elbow grease to create a life for yourself that’s worth living.

Our educational system is broken because collegiate institutions care more about profit margins than practicality. They want you in their schools. They need you in their schools. Just don’t expect a cushy job to be handed to you when you graduate. It doesn’t work that way.

My grandfather, a man born in 1911, crafted his entire career with his bare hands. He worked as a ship builder, a steel mill worker, a tavern owner and finally as an entrepreneur who fixed and rented cigarette machines, pool tables and video games to local restaurants and bars. He saved every penny that he could. He made a small fortune in the stock market. He didn’t have a degree from a four-year institution, nor was he afraid to get his hands dirty to earn a weekly paycheck.

A mechanic friend of mine once told me that if the water runs clean when you first wash your hands after work each day, you didn’t work hard enough. At the time, I scoffed at this notion, but the older I become, the more I respect and understand what he meant. And by the end of this article, I hope that you will, too.

Problem 5: Lack of training and upskilling

As a company, if you don’t invest in your people, they won’t stay with your organization for very long. Today’s workers are smart and savvy. They know the difference between a work culture that fosters growth and one that stifles it.

If you find yourself working for a company that doesn’t encourage growth via on-the-job training, or if you find yourself working for a company that doesn’t give you the tools you need to thrive, then you’re working for the wrong company. It’s that simple.

The Pivot

Now that we’ve addressed the problems, let’s examine solutions to the same.

Solution 1: Offer better wages and benefits

Do you want to find great candidates to fill your vacant skilled labor positions? Here’s a pseudo-revolutionary idea… offer better wages and benefits. For far too long, the monetary compensation given to skilled tradespeople has not grown alongside the rising costs of, well, of everything.

Did you know that wage stagnation for skilled tradespeople in 2010 – 2020 was far worse than it was in the decades that preceded that time? It’s true. In fact, median wage growth for skilled tradespeople rested at 4.7% in 1998 while bottoming out at 1.6% in 2010. That means that in 2010, skilled laborers could expect a 1.6% wage increase year over year. And it wasn’t until COVID-19 happened that the corporate world started to admit, publicly at least, that wage growth percentages needed to increase if they wanted to keep their manufacturing and industrial plants operating at maximum efficiency.

Solution 2: Perceptions can change over time… with a little bit of effort

We need to get rid of the stigma that surrounds skilled trade jobs. We need to do away with the notion that if you work with your hands for a living then you are somehow lessor than those who sit at a desk all day.

Let me take this a step further.

It is time we started championing skilled tradespeople. Afterall, it is they who manufacture, maintain, and refurbish the goods we buy every single day. Even in manufacturing and / or industrial plants that are heavily automated, skilled tradespeople lead the way. Someone needs to run the machines, and someone needs to maintain them. 

Industry 4.0 (a fancy term for the future of manufacturing) shows that we will move further and further down the road to advanced automation, but for every manufacturing job lost to robots, there will be 1.7 jobs gained. So, while the traditional notion of what it means to be a skilled tradesperson may shift in the coming decades, the demand for expertise on the manufacturing and industrial floors will never dissipate.

Remember, there is no substitute for human ingenuity and creative problem solving.

Solution 3: Stop thinking like our fathers

Our fathers are the biproduct of the “greatest generation” in history. They grew up in a world full of dreams, promise and possibility. More often than not, they spent their lives working with their hands in order to provide us the opportunity to do something different, and perhaps that’s the reason they remained so adamant throughout our lives that a college education was needed in order to make something of ourselves.

Now, I am not saying that my experience is your experience. Nor do I mean to imply that generalizations about a generation of people are anything more than blanket truths.

My grandfather and my father were great men. They each had a different view of the world, but both wanted simply what was best for their families. And I imagine that you want the same. But here’s the difference. The world we now live in now, when compared to the worlds our grandfathers and fathers spent most of their lives in, are very different places.

Eighty years ago, my grandfather could never have imagined the connected world we glide through today. He could never have imagined that we’d all be walking around with computers in our pockets that give us instant access to a never-ending stream of information. 

Forty years ago, my father could never have predicted that we’d be able to, with just a few clicks of a screen, have instant video conversations with anyone, at any time, and anywhere across the planet.

Technologically speaking, we have advanced so much as a society in the past 120 years. In fact, over the past 60 years, we have witnessed an explosion in technology the likes of which we as human beings have never experienced before. Knowing this, it is past time to stop thinking like our fathers because the world our fathers thrived in, the world they helped create, is no longer the world we’ve inherited.

Solution 4: Make trade school free for everyone

When you were growing up, imagine if you were given the option to a.) attend trade school for free – or – b.) take on debt to get a four-year liberal arts degree. Would you have made the same choice? I am not sure that I would have.

I was a lost 18-year-old kid. I had no direction and no sense of purpose. I went to college right out of high school because I didn’t fully appreciate that there were other options to consider. I knew what skilled trades were, but as I have mentioned a few times throughout this article, I was always taught by my father that a bachelor’s degree, at the very least, was needed if I were ever to become a successful person. Was he right? I think not.

Looking back on my life, I wish that I had taken a shop class or two in high school. I wish that I would have educated myself more on the options available to a young man desperately seeking direction. I wish that I had known the full, transparent truths about student debt. I wish that I had understood the value that comes from making something with my hands. I wish…

I can’t change the past, but collectively, we can shape the future.

Let’s give today’s youth a better path. Let’s offer them the information, the tools, and the incentives they need to break away from the idea that in order to be successful you need a four-year degree. You don’t. In fact, I posit that many who work in the skilled trades right now are far better off financially speaking than those who pursued corporate careers only to find themselves sitting in cubicles wondering… what if?

Solution 5: Make upskilling a critical part of your company culture

People who feel undertrained and / or underappreciated will leave your organization at some point. Why wouldn’t they? But devaluing our employees, or watering them down to mere numbers, is a mistake that today’s manufacturers can ill afford to make.

At the top of this article, I explained that the crux of the skilled labor shortage problem in America is too many jobs and not enough qualified people. This is a fact. But what if we decided to treat employees as human beings rather than margins on a spreadsheet? What if we decided that training our manufacturers and preparing them for career advancement is far better than letting them walk because they lacked certain skills or demanded compensation that your company wasn’t willing to pay for?

I get that upskilling takes time, effort, and a monetary investment, but so does hiring and onboarding, and perhaps the latter costs far more.

It is past time that we started treating skilled laborers with admiration, respect, and appreciation for all that they do for our companies and for our country. It is past time that we started nurturing skilled labor careers from the jump with a clear-cut path to advanced responsibilities and increased pay if one continues to work hard, produce results, and show a desire for growth.

That’s a Wrap

That was a long one. Thanks so much for sticking around, everyone.

We now know what’s driving the skilled labor shortage in the United States, and we also have some solutions to the problems causing it. But what can you and / or your company do to overcome the immediate issues that stem from a lack of skilled talent? That’s a great question and a great way to wrap this all up.

Companies like FlexTrades are the immediate solution to the skilled labor issues we face throughout the United States. Why? Because they have the talent, and your company has the need. In fact, just tell FlexTrades what type of manufacturers you’re looking for, where you need them and for how long, and they will deliver highly qualified workers who can help turn your backlogs into revenue without breaking the bank.

FlexTrades has hundreds of skilled technicians ready to be deployed on a moment’s notice, so don’t waste another minute wondering how you can solve the skilled labor shortage problem, and let the experts at FlexTrades begin to solve it for you.

Do you have any questions? 

I can be reached at You can also visit our website to learn more about our services, who we are as people, and why we offer immediate solutions to the skilled labor shortages you and your company are likely experiencing at this very moment.

Thanks again for taking the time to read this article, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and each other.

Spring means a lot of things across America but in hiring and educational circles it mostly means one thing – career fair season. There are events everywhere put on by schools, community groups, and sometimes even by employers. A fair is easy to find, you only need to look online or in your local paper but getting satisfactory results can be a lot more difficult. You can already find a lot of info online to help prepare for a fair ahead of time. But we’ve come up with three easy, actionable tips so everyone involved with a career fair can find success while at the event. 


Door Prizes – Foot traffic is the name of the game for employer events. Prizes and giveaways can help a lot when it comes to getting people in the building for your event. Fewer prizes with bigger values will always be a bigger draw, even if it means you must give them away in a drawing or raffle. 

Employer Maps – Students, alumni, and community members come to a career fair to find a job. Make it easy for them to find the kind of jobs for which they’re searching. The easiest way to do this is with a booth map showing where each employer is located and clearly calling out the skillsets/positions for which they’re hiring. 

Walk Around – Surveys after the event can be helpful when planning for your next one but walking around during your event allows you to connect with employers and job seekers in real time. This gives you the best chance to put on a great event by ensuring you can tackle problems and questions immediately.Surveyor asking attendees questions about the career fair they are attending 


Make Jobs Obvious – Attendees at a career fair are looking for jobs. Make it easy for people with the right skills for the jobs you’re filling to find you. Hiring welders or drivers or office admins? Then say it clearly and specifically in your signage and table literature rather than something ambiguous like, “Now hiring for ALL positions.” 

Use Images – A picture says a thousand words, so using a view pictures or videos can replace thousands of words in your signage. This saves money and space as well as simplifying your message and creating a neater overall booth appearance. Quality images also help you draw more ESL speakers or people that may not read well from a distance into your booth too. 

Know Your Product – This may sound self-explanatory, but it is a frequent problem at career fairs. Companies often send out people that know their hiring process best, but those people don’t always know the day-to-day details of the work itself. Having an event team that can speak to the full employee experience (onboarding, compensation, benefits, daily work duties, etc.) goes a long way to generating interested candidates. 

Job Seekers

Do Your Research – Some hiring events can get truly huge with hundreds of employers and thousands of job seekers. Showing up unprepared to such an event is a sure way to get overwhelmed quickly. To avoid this, do your homework first. Research employers on the internet ahead of time to create a list of target companies you want to connect with and to make sure you have questions ready for them once you do! 

Take Notes – You can make a great many connections, and learn a lot of information, in a short time at a career fair. Don’t trust your memory to remember it all! Whether you take an actual notebook, take pictures and notes on your phone, or just jot down details on the back of business cards – writing down who said what and when will be extremely helpful for follow ups and actual interviews. 

Make It a Game – The real benefit to a career fair for a job seeker is sheer volume. The more potential employers you talk to, the more likely you are to find the right opportunity for you. To capitalize on this, try incentivizing yourself to hit as many booths as possible. You can do so by pre-determining a “reward” for yourself if you speak with X number of employers or simply making a competition between friends to see who can connect with the most. 

We hope you find this list helpful in getting the most out of the next employer event you attend. If it winds up leading you to your next career, you may want some additional help too. Remember, if you have ideas for things to do, or NOT to do, (or places and situations in which you shouldn’t do them) we’re happy to share those too! Just send them to our Writing Team and we’ll cover them in a future blog. 

When COVID-19 hit, consumers and manufacturers alike quickly learned just how fragile the global supply chain was. They also learned just how important supply chain resilience is. Let’s talk about both now.

What is Supply Chain Resilience?

Supply chain resilience is the ability to withstand and minimize the effects of supply chain disruptions. It is planning and preparing for possible disruptions; the goal of which being fast response and recovery when those disruptions occur. It is not being invincible to interruptions but rather being able to overcome them without a big impact to operations and / or customer deadlines. But how is supply chain resilience accomplished? That’s a great question. Supply chain resilience is going to require big changes by manufactures in three key areas… technology, processes, and people.


Supply Chain Technology

Reviewing old technology, adopting new technology, and always looking for emerging technologies is critical. Technologies that help overcome supply disruptions include:

  • Real-time analytical tools
  • ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning software that manages the entire business from finance, human resources, manufacturing, supply chain, procurement, and more).
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Robotics or Automated Systems
  • Digital Manufacturing Systems
  • Cryptocurrency like the blockchain
  • Integration of systems and software across the supply chain including those from suppliers, warehouse systems, stores/customers, etc…


Supply Chain Process

New Forecasting Techniques:

  • Oftentimes, company forecasts focus on their own needs as it relates to demand. If demand is this, we need to do this. But companies need to dig deeper than that. Dig into what the supply chain looks like for suppliers, the demands and risks suppliers could be facing and how those demands and risks will affect operations.
  • Note: It’s very important to truly understand the products and goods that bring the most value to an organization. Build a commodity management strategy for these products which essentially allows for the management and coordination of all items related to these key products, including procurement, production, and distribution. This can be helpful when facing an inevitable disruption to the supply chain.

Build In Inventory Buffers:

  • Yes, it can be costly to no longer operate in a just-in-time fashion, but what’s even more costly is missed deliveries and lost customers when there’s no inventory.
  • Supplier Diversification: This could mean asking existing partners to supply parts from a wider variety of manufacturing locations, or it could mean adding in new suppliers with locations and processes different than that of current suppliers.
  • Note: To implement multi-sourcing, calculate the revenue impact of the disruptive event (i.e., natural disaster, global or localized pandemic) that occurred.

Nearshoring or Reshoring:

  • Upon first thought, nearshoring seems to be the opposite of supplier diversification. Many believe supplier diversification means offshore suppliers, but a diversified supply chain is one that focuses on companies locally, regionally, domestically, and globally. The local and regional level can be more expensive, but it also shortens both cycle and delivery times.


Supply Chain People

  • Build relationships with 3PLs and contract manufacturers. Diversifying partnerships with 3PLs is vital to the distribution of product, and contracting other manufacturers for the production of a product is important, too.
  • Upskilling: A manufacturer’s workforce is critical to surviving supply chain disruptions. A cross-trained workforce lessens the need to be reactive in hiring and eases challenges caused by supply chain issues.
  • Create a commodity management team and a supplier management team. These two teams understand supply chain to its fullest, its pricing (particularly as it relates to demand), and the general manufacturing market while also building great relationships with suppliers for mutual benefit in the future.

Enacting these tools takes time, attention and money in the short term, and it’s hard to commit to spending more money now for a potential risk in the future but the risk is ultimately worth the investment.

What do you think? Do you have any question? Feel free to reach me anytime at