Four Factors Driving the Shortage of Supply Chain Workers
Published on Dec 27, 2021
There is a myriad of circumstances that could potentially result in a shortage of workers, which we have seen throughout 2020-2021. Our economy is currently facing demand that it has never seen before, entire markets pivoting toward full e-commerce integration, skill gap issues, and an aging workforce. All of these things, especially in conjunction, can easily result in an industry-wide shortage of supply chain workers.
According to this article on Forbes, many companies in the supply chain industry are now offering very competitive wages and tempting benefits, but they are still seeing many positions go unfilled.
So, what is driving the current shortage of supply chain workers?
Let’s take a look.
Supply Chain Workers and The Skills Gap
A large chunk of the positions that are going unfilled is due to a shortage of qualified workers, says the Chamber of Commerce. Jobs that workers were performing previously required less technical abilities than the available jobs today.
Therefore, people who are applying to jobs likely do not yet have the specific skills that employers are looking for. On the flipside, employers don’t have the resources or the time to train new employees.
This is a multifactorial problem, and not an easy one to solve. To counter this issue a bit, the U.S. federal government is trying to bridge this skills gap by funding upskilling programs as well as attempting to create easier, more affordable access to childcare for families where parents work outside of the home.
Outside of highly skilled positions, however, there are still many jobs that require supply chain workers who can handle the unprecedented demand we are now experiencing. These include positions such as those in warehouses and distribution centers.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for items of all kinds soared. Many people, out of necessity, pivoted from shopping in stores to shopping online or opting for a hybrid of the two. As the number of online orders increased, warehouse workers struggled to keep up with the never-before-seen demand while navigating various pandemic-related restrictions. It was a long period of uncertainty combined with the pressure of tons of orders.
All of us were learning as we went along.
This increased demand is unlikely to go away, and may only increase over time as more consumers begin turning to online ordering as their primary means of shopping. Many brick-and-mortar shops acknowledge this reality and have begun increasing their online presence in order to match consumer preferences. However, this requires more effort from warehouses and distribution centers as these orders now need to go to specific homes instead of to a central store.
This higher demand requires an ever-growing workforce capable of handling the massive surge of work that comes along with it.
Extended Recovery from Capacity Limits
Over the last two years, warehouses and distribution centers had to enforce capacity limits within their facilities. This meant that, in general, fewer workers were able to be in facilities than were required to complete operations.
Therefore, we saw a combination of soaring demand (discussed in the previous section) and restrictions on the number of workers who were allowed to be in a warehouse at one time. Not to mention, there were some facilities that had to be shut down altogether for extended periods of time. These businesses were unable to process any orders during this time,. This delay only further complicated the issue of massive demand and short staff.
Luckily, we are beginning to see recovery and rebalancing efforts happening across the economy.
Supply Chain Workers Nearing Retirement Age
Furthermore, many truck drivers and supply chain workers, in general, are at or near retirement age. The ATA said recently that the nation is short on right around 80,000 truck drivers.
With a large majority of truck drivers nearing retirement, long hauls are a factor in the shortage. Newer drivers are less-interested in long hauls away from home. The majority of new, younger drivers coming into the workforce now, hold different values. Being home every night with family is one of those values keeping a younger fleet from joining the ranks.
For the trucking industry specifically, many proposals have been made to handle this issue. Everything from more time home to increased hourly pay to lobbying to lift some age-restricted interstate transport and everything in-between.
But this issue extends beyond just the truck driver shortage. An aging workforce is impacting nearly every section of the supply chain industry in a variety of similar ways.
The supply chain worker shortage is not an easy issue to solve. To overcome the difficulties caused by huge demand, long-term recovery from business shutdowns, and an aging workforce; it takes a combined effort from many different directions.
Luckily, no one is taking this issue lightly. The U.S. government has attempted to ease the pressure in any way they can. Additionally, companies are doing everything in their power to appeal to available workers. It will take some time and creative thinking to overcome the shortage of supply chain workers, but it can be done.
The very first steps to achieving that goal is to get prospective supply chain workers in the door...