Regional strategies to meet the ever increasing skill demand in manufacturing industries

Authors: Martin Henning*, University of Gothenburg, Johan Jacobsson, University of Gothenburg, Elias Johannesson, University of Gothenburg
Topics: Economic Geography, Europe
Keywords: Economic geography, manufacturing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Average skill levels of manufacturing employees in the advanced economies have been increasing continuously during the later decades. A central dynamic of this process has been outphasing of those holding the least skills, and increasing shares of those holding a university degree. Current transformation pressures, for example digitalization and servification, seem to increase demand for some skills even further, but also challenge the future relevance of established regional and national training structures. The supply of skills for a changing manufacturing industry is therefore a major policy challenge. With an empirical focus on Sweden, this paper asks 1) how skill structures have changed in the manufacturing industries since the early 2000s, 2) which strategies small and middle sized firms use to source skills, and 3) which role regional educational institutions and skill enhancing organizations play in these skill sourcing strategies, and if their institutional roles change in an increasingly knowledge-intensive manufacturing sector. The research questions are answered by combining statistical data from Statistics Sweden, with case studies of 10 manufacturing firms. The findings indicate that as skill demand increases, skills supply in a more complex economic environment is a distributed responsibility between individual, firms and educational institutions. This requires an alteration of traditional human capital policies. While many firms, especially in peripheral locations, struggle to find the right competence for their operations, they also meet many other transformation pressures besides digitalization that impact their skill sourcing needs, some of which pose immediate problems to firms’ operations.

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