The Modern Day Manufacturing Brain Drain

The term “brain drain” emerged in the 1950s when many British scientists, engineers, and intellectuals emigrated from the UK to the US for better working conditions.

In recent years, the term has been used to describe ongoing challenges in the manufacturing industry. Nearly two-thirds of manufacturing executives surveyed in 2023 by the National Association of Manufacturers said attracting and retaining quality workers was their biggest challenge.

US manufacturers struggle to attract and retain talent due to an aging workforce and younger perspectives on joining industry. On average, 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day, and older workers are disproportiately represented in manufacturing.

Older manufacturing workers sometimes take decades of institutional knowledge with them. More than 41% of boomers have stayed with the same employer for 20+ years; 18% have stayed for 30+ years, according to a 2022 Amdocs survey.

Struggles to attract and retain workers has necessitated investments in training and development programs. The lack of such programs can further drive skilled workers to seek other opportunities.

Manufacturers are also battling outdated perceptions about the industry. Despite modern facilities being highly automated and technologically advanced, stereotypes remain a big challenge in attracting talent.