According to data published by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry earlier this month, challenges associated with an aging workforce, including the loss of historical process knowledge and specialized skills related to long-standing production systems, machinery and software, may threaten Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry, but perhaps not uniformly throughout the Commonwealth. Rather, the effects of an aging manufacturing workforce may be more severe within certain regions of the state and less dramatic within others.

Using 2011 payroll and employee census information, the Department of Labor & Industry concluded that across all industry groups, nearly 22% of all Pennsylvania workers are 55 or older. Among manufacturers, however, that demographic group of workers rose to 24.9%. Certain analysts would assert that the 2.9% difference is insignificant. Perhaps when the disparity is looked upon as a statewide average, they would be correct. However, within selected counties of Pennsylvania, the level of manufacturing workers above 54 years of age exceeded the Commonwealth’s average (22%) rather significantly, and is therefore cause for concern.

The Department concluded that in three Pennsylvania counties – Pike, Sullivan and Huntingdon – the percentage of manufacturing workers age 55 or older was above 30%. Another 17 counties – including the manufacturing-driven areas of Susquehanna, Lackawanna and Columbia counties – reported that over one-quarter of their manufacturing employees were 55 or older. In total, 49 Pennsylvania counties have a manufacturing workforce that, in terms of employees age 55 or older, is above the Commonwealth’s all-industry average of 22%. Conversely, 18 of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties host a manufacturing workforce that is below that average. Generally, concentrations of more senior manufacturing workers appeared within the northeastern, southeastern and southwestern areas of the Commonwealth, with younger overall manufacturing workforce statistics noted throughout the northwestern, central, and south-central regions.

Given the increasing average age of Pennsylvania’s manufacturing workers and the lack of qualified new manufacturing hires being noted across many regions of the Commonwealth, many companies are using innovative approaches to employee attraction and retention, including Job Shadowing opportunities, Youth Apprentice positions and Training-Within-Industry tools to create standardized work processes that are more easily transferred to new employees.

A full copy of the Department of Labor & Industry’s Pennsylvania Fast Facts for the month of May 2012 can be found by CLICKING HERE. A map of manufacturing workforce demographic statistics appears on Page 5 of that document.

For more information on the tools and tactics that regional manufacturers are using to prepare for the eventual retirement of a significant portion of their workforce, please request additional information at info@nepirc.com.