Predictions 2013

Where Will Manufacturers Find Employees?

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Help wanted: manufacturers will have thousands of unfilled jobs.

Call this the never-ending problem weighing on American manufacturers. The lack of skilled applicants needed to run computer programmed machinery or to work on complex manufacturing will keep companies across America from hiring tens of thousands of workers. As a result, many manufacturing firms will tell stories of being unable to ramp up production to the levels they would like to achieve.

Lights out manufacturing will keep plants humming at night.

With manufacturers struggling to fill jobs, particularly on the second and third shifts, an increasing number of firms will turn to lights out manufacturing in 2013. Having machinery programmed to produce products when there are no workers in the plant will become more common next year. Lights out manufacturing does not work for many American companies, but for those where it's a possibility expect the transition to take place.

The southern expansion continues.

The trend started 20 years ago and picked up steam during the most recent recession. From to defense firms to large foreign manufacturers (Airbus), the southern U.S. has become a favored place to put a plant in America. That will continue in 2013 as foreign firms look to further take advantage of the stable U.S. economy. One concern is whether certain areas in the South have enough skilled workers to staff new plants. As manufacturers have added facilities in areas like southeastern Tennessee (Chattanooga) there's a concern new firms may struggle to come up with enough of the applicants needed for skilled openings. The result: manufacturers in the South will have to spend more on training those it hires.