After unprecedented disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, the manufacturing and metalworking industries are making a strong comeback. However, these sectors were already evolving, outpacing the availability of skilled labor prior to the shutdown. Now that jobs are available again, the demand for more qualified labor could soon turn into a crisis unless we work to close the skill gap.

Many companies have invested in training to prepare their existing workforce for the future. This includes engaging in cross-institutional collaboration to create training programs at both local and national levels, as well as build systems for skill-sharing. But for current and prospective metalworking professionals that don’t have access to such resources, it’s still important to learn these four skills to remain competitive in the job market:

1. Fluency in Technology and Digital Tools

The future is already here on the shop floor, with the “Industrial Internet of Things,” automation, artificial intelligence, and big data capabilities becoming increasingly important for manufacturers’ success. In 2019, a study by BCG found that 70% of the fastest growing skills in the industry were related to digital applications. Job ads that feature keywords like “cloud” and “machine learning” were growing by 20% year after year.

This demand for digital literacy is only expected to increase. Workers in manufacturing currently spend about 48% of their time engaged in manual labor, according to McKinsey & Company. However, they predict this will decrease to just 35% by 2030, while workers’ time spent with technology will grow from 12% to 19%.

The software industry is stepping up also by creating a number of no-code platforms to help employees automate workflows and analyze data more easily. However, workers familiar with computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, or experienced at creating and managing computer numerical control (CNC) and robotic programming and other complicated engineering software, will be more valuable as the need for manual labor is replaced by the need to manage robotics and programs.

2. Proficiency with Traditional Processes and Techniques

With all the talk of automation in manufacturing, there’s no indication manual labor will ever completely go away. This is especially true when it comes to complex processes and techniques that robotics can’t replace. Many companies struggle to find workers who are proficient in finishing techniques to perfect parts after CNC machining and grinding. This need will become increasingly common as additive manufacturing and mixed-machining operations become more common.

3. Communication and Problem Solving

Manufacturing is nothing without a human element, and that remains true even as we enter the fourth industrial revolution. Manufacturers need a workforce that excels at building relationships, working in teams, and leveraging each other and technology to solve problems and overcome challenges. With major changes happening daily due to supply chain disruptions or advancements in technology, it’s imperative that shops employ people who can clearly communicate issues and can even train or coach others through resolution.

4. Aptitude for Learning

If you enjoy reading about new developments in your industry and understanding progress, you already have one of the most important skills manufacturing workers need. The most advanced machines in the world are nothing without skilled workers to manage them. Even artificial intelligence requires human input. As technology changes at an exponential rate, manufacturers need workers who not only excel at learning new things, but enjoy it.

The metalworking industry requires high-tech skills that were unimaginable just a few decades ago, but dedication and people skills are as important as ever. Manufacturing has always used cutting-edge technology to build the world we live in. This mix of technological proficiency and interpersonal skills makes manufacturing an exciting and rewarding career.

To learn more about how Master Fluid Solutions is training the next generation of metalworkers, visit