Job Report: Why Employers are Struggling to Acquire Technician Talent

Explore why America faces a technician talent gap and learn effective strategies to close it.

Parminder Jassal
April 30, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Skill Shortage Crisis: America is experiencing a critical shortage of skilled technicians due to insufficient training and educational misalignment with industry needs.
  • Technological Advancements: Rapid advancements in technology require continuous upskilling and reskilling to address the significant gap in training for high-tech roles.
  • Cultural Perceptions: The undervaluation of technical jobs due to societal biases impedes the recruitment of diverse and competent technicians.
  • Strategic Solutions: Effective workforce development, integration of advanced digital tools, and strong educational partnerships are key to mitigating these challenges.
  • Future Outlook: The demand for technicians is set to grow further, influenced by technological integration and advanced manufacturing processes. It highlights the need for a strategically skilled workforce.


As industry and commerce become increasingly dependent on technical solutions, the dynamics of America's labor market are changing rapidly. Skilled technicians are becoming critical across industries driven by advancements in technology, digitization, and automation. 

Despite the critical need, there's a widening gap between available positions and qualified candidates when it comes to skilled technicians. This report unpacks the multifaceted challenges of filling these essential roles and outlines strategic solutions to foster a well-equipped workforce. 

Through a deep dive into educational shortcomings, training needs, and successful interventions, we explore how to streamline the path from education to employment of technical talent.

man working with a robot

The American Labor Market Situation

The demand for technicians is surging across the US and is being fueled by a tech-driven economy that increasingly relies on automation and digital infrastructure. 

As sectors from manufacturing to healthcare integrate more advanced technologies, the need for skilled technicians to operate, maintain, and repair advanced systems is at an all-time high. The supply of such skilled professionals is not keeping pace with demand, however, leading to significant gaps in the labor market.

Employment Data Analysis

While the overall labor market shows robust growth, deeper analysis reveals significant challenges in specific sectors. This is particularly evident in manufacturing and semiconductors, where the gaps between available skilled workers and job vacancies are becoming increasingly stark.

Manufacturing Sector Crisis

In the manufacturing sector, a critical shortage of technicians is emerging, with figures estimating anywhere from 2.1 million to 3.8 million manufacturing  jobs expected to remain unfilled during the next decade. Among those expected to grow at the quickest pace are roles like industrial maintenance technicians, statisticians, data scientists, engineers, and logisticians.

This gap stems mainly from a scarcity of workers with the advanced technical skills required for increasingly sophisticated manufacturing processes. As the industry integrates more automation and digital technologies, this shortage could curb the growth of individual companies and the global competitiveness of the entire U.S. manufacturing sector.

machinery in a manufacturing sector

Semiconductor Industry Challenges

Similarly, the semiconductor industry, which is a cornerstone of modern technology and digital infrastructure, is also under significant strain. 

Economists predict that the U.S. semiconductor sector needs to add approximately 90,000 workers by 2025 to meet the demands for chip production. Moreover, semiconductor processing technicians are expected to be among the fastest-growing positions in production roles and will play a vital role in ensuring the scalability and efficiency of semiconductor manufacturing processes.

Logistics Sector Shortages

The logistics sector also reports acute shortages, with 76 percent of supply chain and logistics leaders indicating significant workforce shortages, as per a late 2023 Descartes survey.  In fact, 37% of respondents characterized the shortage as “high to extreme.” Based on the findings of the survey, transportation operations (61%) and warehouse operations (56%) emerged as the sectors experiencing the greatest resource shortages.

The demand for fleet technicians is particularly pronounced, with a separate 2022 study projecting a significant increase in demand for new automotive, diesel, and collision technicians, expected to rise to 797,530 by 2025.

These shortages include other roles such as logistics technicians, who are vital for managing increasingly automated and complex supply chain operations. This scarcity of skilled technicians in logistics exacerbates issues of efficiency and reliability in supply chain management.

Electric Vehicle Industry Urgency

The Electric Vehicle (EV) industry faces its own unique challenges as it scales up to meet increasing demand. A significant hurdle is the shortage of qualified high-level electricians, especially those trained to install and maintain EV chargers. 

Matt Trout, president of Trout Electric, highlights the industry's desperation for skilled labor, stating, "If you came to me right now with a journeyman that's been in the EV charging industry for the last couple of years, he'd be hired on the spot." 

Moreover, Qmerit, a company specializing in electrification technologies, estimates that achieving the Biden Administration’s 2030 electrification goals, including widespread EV charging stations and solar panel installations, will require at least 142,000 more certified electricians.

vehicle manufacturing

Broader Implications

These data points from the manufacturing, semiconductor, logistics and EV sectors illustrate a broader trend across technical industries, where rapid technological advancements are outpacing the current supply of skilled labor. This misalignment poses a serious challenge to sustaining innovation and growth, highlighting the urgent need for strategic interventions in technical education and workforce training.

Factors Contributing to Hiring Struggles

The complex terrain of today's labor market conceals a series of obstacles that hinder the acquisition of technician talent. They range from educational deficiencies to insufficient specialized training, along with cultural misconceptions about technical careers. 

Each of these elements plays a significant role in the ongoing struggle to fill technical positions with competent personnel. Let's delve into the specifics of these challenges and their implications for the industry.

Educational Gaps

A critical issue plaguing the technician sector is the lack of comprehensive technical education programs that directly align with the evolving needs of industry. 

This dearth of adequately tailored educational frameworks hinders the development of a workforce capable of handling the demands of modern industries, thereby inflating the talent void further. The skills gap is particularly acute in middle-skill jobs such as CNC machinists, welders, and maintenance technicians, which require specific technical training and applied skills that cannot be quickly transferred from other industries.

The challenge extends far beyond immediate training needs as well. As the manufacturing sector undergoes urgent digital transformations, the types of skills required in a smart factory are evolving. Today's workforce is largely unprepared for these changes as current educational programs lag in offering the advanced digital and technical training needed for tomorrow’s jobs. 

As manufacturers strive to maintain operations amidst these challenges, the long-term landscape looks increasingly complex. The industry struggles not just in recruiting enough personnel but in cultivating a workforce with the advanced and specialized skills necessary for the future of manufacturing. This highlights the urgent need for educational institutions to revamp their curricula and training programs to better meet the demands of an industry in flux.

Despite an “influx of more than 2.7 million industrial robots” in use worldwide, the human touch remains indispensable for the majority of manufacturing outputs. The chorus of concern among industry leaders is loud and clear: finding skilled people to manage these advanced machines is a growing challenge!

During the pandemic, the manufacturing sector netted a loss of 578,000 jobs, wiping out nearly six years of job gains. 

The immediate shortage of technicians the industry faces can be broadly categorized into two main areas:

  • The challenge of filling entry-level positions.
  • The acute difficulty in finding skilled talent for more complex roles. 

Both issues stem from the same root—insufficient and outdated training processes that fail to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving industry.

small robots

Cultural and Perceptual Issues

The societal perception of technical jobs as less prestigious compared to white-collar roles significantly influences career choices. This stigma steers potential talent away and devalues technician roles despite their necessity in the current job market. To overcome this bias, it is essential to attract a broader pool of candidates who see these roles as valuable and rewarding career paths.

Separately, the manufacturing sector is facing a diversity challenge. While DEI efforts are increasing across all industries, the focus in manufacturing has intensified due to the sector's historical struggle with diversity. Manufacturers are increasingly committed to transforming workplace cultures and practices as part of their DEI strategies.

Manufacturers of all sizes are taking the National Association of Manufacturers’ Pledge for Action as part of the effort to foster significant changes by 2030. The rationale is clear: a diverse workforce is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one as well. By broadening the demographic base of potential employees, companies can aim to mitigate the long-standing biases that have historically kept diverse talent pools at bay.

The focus on DEI is also a recognition that the industry cannot sustain or grow without embracing a wider spectrum of talent, particularly in technician roles that are critical yet underappreciated. Organizations are actively working to dismantle the outdated views that deter young people from diverse backgrounds from entering technical fields. 

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Strategies and Solutions

Several strategies have proven effective in tackling the challenges of acquiring skilled technician talent. They include workforce development programs, upskilling efforts, and collaborations with educational institutions - each strategy offering unique solutions to cultivate a robust labor pool.

Workforce Development Programs

Workforce development programs are essential tools for cultivating a skilled labor pool equipped to meet industry demands. These programs typically combine training, education, and employment services to prepare workers for entry into the workforce or to advance within their fields.

One example is the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Program, designed to prepare individuals for sophisticated manufacturing roles. This program blends classroom instruction with hands-on lab experience to develop the troubleshooting skills essential for modern manufacturing. Learners who complete this certification often step into roles that are otherwise challenging to fill. This provides the workforce with highly competent technicians.

Upskilling and Reskilling

The rapid pace of technological change calls for continual learning and skill development to keep the workforce relevant and competent. Upskilling (enhancing current skills) and reskilling (training for new skills) are critical for workers to keep pace with evolving industry requirements.

The Academy of Advanced Manufacturing (AAM), a partnership between Rockwell Automation and ManpowerGroup, targets US military veterans, offering them training in high-demand technology-based manufacturing roles. The 12-week program equips veterans with the necessary skills to transition into civilian jobs effectively. This initiative fills a skill gap and also provides veterans with career opportunities in a growing sector.

Collaboration with Educational Institutions

Partnerships with educational institutions can create continuous talent pipelines that benefit both students and industries. These collaborations often involve tailored training programs that align closely with specific industry needs to ensure graduates are job-ready.

Unmudl plays a crucial role in these partnerships, facilitating the connection between community colleges and major industry players, such as Amazon. By working together, Unmudl and community colleges develop curricula that specifically address the skills gaps identified by Amazon, focusing on areas critical to their operational needs.

Through Unmudl's network, community colleges offer courses in mechatronics that are tailored to prepare students for immediate employment at Amazon's facilities. These courses provide hands-on learning experiences that are directly relevant to the challenges and opportunities within Amazon's expansive operational infrastructure.

These strategic partnerships supply Amazon with a steady stream of skilled workers while offering students a clear and direct route to careers with one of the world's largest companies. 

Integration of Digital Tools

Adopting advanced digital tools and technologies within training programs can dramatically enhance the learning experience and better prepare students for modern work environments. Simulation software, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) platforms are now being used to mimic real-world scenarios and processes that technicians will face on the job.

For instance, Boeing utilizes VR to train aviation technicians. This technology allows trainees to interact with a virtual aircraft model for maintenance and repair tasks. The immersive VR environment is designed to simulate various scenarios technicians might face, from routine maintenance to emergency repairs. It significantly enhances their skills without the risks associated with physical training. This method accelerates learning and also improves the precision and quality of the work performed by technicians.

virtual reality set for a pilot

Incentive Programs

Incentives can play a crucial role in attracting and retaining talent, particularly in sectors where skill shortages are pronounced. These might include signing bonuses, competitive benefits packages, and continuous professional development opportunities.

For instance, Tesla offers a robust incentive package to skilled technicians in its Gigafactories, including signing bonuses and stock options. These incentives are part of a broader strategy to attract top talent necessary for operating advanced manufacturing technology. 

Additionally, Tesla provides ongoing training and upskilling opportunities to keep their technicians at the forefront of automotive and battery manufacturing technologies. This approach helps in filling vacancies quickly and also fosters a dedicated and stable workforce committed to long-term goals.

Future Growth and Outlook

About 10,600 new jobs for technicians are projected over the next decade. This growth will be primarily driven by the continuous technological integration in industrial operations. Although the projected technician job growth rate is 3% from 2022-2032, it is significant given the specialized nature of these roles.

The growth underlines an increasing need for maintenance work as more organizations depend on high-tech machinery and equipment. The rise in industrial automation and the continued adoption of complex machinery will create demand for an increasingly larger number of skilled technicians to ensure operational efficiency.

Impact of Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are set to redefine the requirements for technical skills in the workforce. While some fear automation may displace technical jobs, current trends suggest technology will instead augment these roles to enhance productivity rather than replace human workers.

Technicians are likely to see their roles evolve from reactive maintenance to proactive and predictive models. This shift is being facilitated by Industry 4.0 technologies, which utilize sensors and intelligent systems to predict equipment failures before they occur. As a result, maintenance technicians will spend less time diagnosing problems and more time responding to precise and automatically generated work orders.

Changes in Technician Work

The adoption of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) and other digital tools is poised to revolutionize how maintenance tasks are managed. These systems offer cloud-based services and remote connectivity, which streamline work order management, asset tracking, and reporting. The transition to digital tools means maintenance data becomes more accessible and actionable, allowing for more efficient operations.

These and other digital transitions also present unique challenges, however. 

Technicians will need thorough training to adapt to new technologies such as CMMS, Internet of Things (IoT) tech, and predictive maintenance tools. The success of integrating these technologies into daily operations depends largely on the pace and manner of implementation. If adopted too swiftly, they can lead to operational setbacks. Integrated thoughtfully, however, they can significantly empower technicians by enhancing productivity and reinforcing the critical nature of their roles in modern industry.

a person looking through a VR headset

Long-term Outlook and Adaptation

The long-term outlook for technicians is largely positive, with increased technological roles likely enhancing the prominence and necessity of these positions. Companies will need to invest in ongoing education and training to keep their technician workforce adept at handling the latest technologies.

The Role of Unmudl

Unmudl is a pivotal platform in technical education that is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between learning and earning. 

At its core, Unmudl operates as a skills-to-job marketplace that connects learners with the right courses and subsequent job opportunities. The platform focuses on practical, industry-relevant training that aligns closely with current demands. 

By partnering with community colleges and educational institutions, Unmudl offers courses in emerging areas such as mechatronics, control systems, safety protocols, and much more. 

These courses are directly linked to job opportunities with top employers, including giants like Amazon.

Facilitating Skill Acquisition

Our approach is straightforward: we help individuals quickly find and engage with courses that enhance their skills and boost employability. This streamlined pathway from education to employment is crucial in sectors experiencing rapid technological advancements and a corresponding demand for skilled labor.

Benefits for Employers and Employees

For employers, Unmudl serves as a valuable resource to access a pool of job-ready candidates who are trained in specific skills needed in the workplace. This reduces the time and cost associated with training new hires and ensures a smoother integration into specialized roles. Unmudl offers a clear advantage for potential employers by providing training that is directly tied to real job opportunities.

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