Do You Know Which Soft Skills Are Most in Demand in the Manufacturing Industry Right Now?

The demand for workplace skills is changing, and there’s now a greater emphasis on soft skills that support remote work. Plus, with new technologies like AI emerging, the skill sets employees need are evolving too.

A recent study surveyed over 1,000 employees to find out the skills they and businesses value and how new technologies are influencing this.


What are the most important soft skills for a career in the manufacturing sector?

82% of manufacturing employees and managers believe new hires need soft skills and should demonstrate them in the hiring process, compared to 84% across all industries. This number shot up to a substantial 90% in companies with over 500 employees.

Employees were asked which core soft skills they considered most important for new recruits. Communication topped the list at 31%, with critical thinking following suit at 28% and time management not far behind at 22%. Interestingly, the importance of soft skills also varied with education level: Bachelor’s (91%), Master’s (91%), and Doctorates (95%) found soft skills more important than those with school level certifications (74%).


Where Are Employers Offering Training?

Communication and problem-solving training are the most common soft skill opportunities, each at 35%. However, 7% of employees did not receive any soft skills training in the past year, rising to 13% in companies with fewer than 50 employees. The focus on skills varies by company size, with fostering a growth mindset promoted almost twice as much in companies with over 500 staff (31%) compared to those with under 50 (16%).

When comparing male and female employees, 37% of men received training on creativity, versus 21% of women. Communication training was common for both genders, with 35% of women and 36% of men receiving it. While employers play a key role in skill development, individuals and educational institutions also share this responsibility. However, 14% of respondents feel the education system fails to prepare entry-level employees adequately, and less than half are confident that school provides all necessary employment skills.


What are the most important skills for existing employees looking to advance in their careers?

As employees advance in their careers, the demand for specific skills shifts. The most important skills for career advancement in manufacturing were leadership (24%) and problem-solving (24%). Only 15% of respondents thought leadership was crucial for new joiners, suggesting that skill requirements evolve throughout an employee’s career.


How is technology changing the game for team needs?

When asked about the future importance of soft skills, 64% of respondents said they would be just as or more important, compared to 71% across all industries. This may reflect the manufacturing industry’s prioritising of “hard” or technical skills.

New technologies like AI are shifting demand for specific skills, prompting employees to deepen their existing skill sets or acquire new ones, many of which will be personal attributes and non-technical skills that describe how people work and interact with others. In short, innately human skills that AI cannot reliably or ethically replicate, such as empathy, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence, will become in high demand. Even with talk of AI and automation taking over jobs, the study shows that human skills remain invaluable to employers.


Key takeaways of the study:

  • 84% of employees and managers believe new hires must possess soft skills and demonstrate them in the hiring process.
  • In manufacturing & utilities, communication is the most valuable soft skill for recruits, followed by critical thinking.
  • For C-level executives and senior managers, creativity is the top soft skill.
  • Leadership is seen as the most valuable skill for career advancement.
  • 48% of companies are looking to expand their employees’ skill sets.


In a nutshell?

Among the essential soft skills, communication stands out as the most critical, both for new hires and for advancing in one’s career. Leadership is also highlighted as a key skill necessary for career progression and success.

Overall, the study emphasises the importance of soft skills in the workplace and underscores the need for ongoing skill development initiatives, both within companies and in the education system.


If you’re an employer seeking candidates with specific skills or a job seeker eager to find a role where your talents will be valued and utilised, get in touch with us. We’d love to help.


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