U.S. aluminum needs a diverse workforce trained in traditional and advanced manufacturing skills. Such talent is in high demand and short supply. The association works with a number of organizations to recruit the next generation of manufacturing workers and leads a number of programs on industry health and safety.
A safe and healthy workforce is the industry's top priority.
Aluminum Workforce Agenda
The U.S. aluminum industry is proud of its health and safety track record health and safety, which has long been a priority. Injury and illness data indicate that aluminum plants continue to improve on their safety performance but more can be done. Millions of pounds of aluminum are melted and cast safely every day in casthouses, foundries, recycling and reclamation plants across the country. However, just like any manufacturing process, there are inherent risks and hazards involved with aluminum production. The Association believes that these hazards can be minimized or eliminated entirely by careful attention to safe material handling, robust training and communication and the sharing of best practices.
The Aluminum Association supports:
- A culture of health & safety: Follow industry best practices and implement strong, comprehensive health & safety protocols at each plant. The Association supports these efforts by publishing materials on the safe production and handling of aluminum; holding Casthouse Safety Workshops to educate plant workers and managers on workplace safety; serving as the global clearinghouse for collection and sharing of important safety learnings; and ongoing engagement with member companies on the latest industry safety standards.
- Consistent OSHA regulations: Ensure that any new, government-mandated health and safety standards are based on sound scientific, data-driven research and stakeholder input. Prior to a new rulemaking, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should review whether existing standards and regulations already address emerging safety and health issues. Finally, OSHA should apply and interpret occupational safety and health regulations uniformly across the country.
Like many manufacturers, the U.S. aluminum industry faces challenges in recruiting the next generation of diverse, advanced manufacturing talent. Skilled labor remains in high demand and short supply, with routine turnover adding to these challenges. The Aluminum Association works with organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on workforce and recruitment issues and to share resources with aluminum manufacturers and other stakeholders.
The Aluminum Association supports:
- Apprenticeship programs: Grow and promote work-based learning opportunities – including apprenticeship, upskilling, credentialing and other types of training programs – that help aluminum firms recruit and retain the highly skilled, diverse workforce they need to thrive.
- Incentives for training: Use incentive programs to encourage existing employees to grow skill sets through and training programs.
- Workforce Diversity and Inclusion: A broad variety of perspectives helps improve industry decision-making as well as operational efficiency and U.S. aluminum industry companies work to ensure that all perspectives are represented in their workforce. Historically, aluminum manufacturing has been a male-dominated workforce, but the Association and the industry continue to work to ensure that it presents attractive career opportunities for all.
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A vital workforce.
More than 160,000 Americans work in the aluminum industry today. Like many other parts of U.S. manufacturing, the aluminum industry has a strong demand for workers trained in traditional and advanced manufacturing skills. Skilled labor remains in high demand and short supply, with routine turnover adding to these challenges.
The industry is working to recruit and retain the next generation of manufacturing workers while ensuring their health and safety on the job.
U.S. Aluminum Industry Workforce Survey Finds Engineers in Heavy Demand
75% of respondents to a first-of-its-kind survey of aluminum producers, fabricators and suppliers on workforce trends and challenges identified the need to recruit new engineers as the most critical workforce gap facing the industry. The online survey conducted by the Aluminum Association in October 2023 drove responses from 40 companies representing 53 individual plants and facilities operating in North America.
Over the past decade, the U.S. aluminum industry has invested more than $9 billion in domestic plants and facility expansions. For the first time in more than 40 years, two brand-new aluminum rolling mills broke ground in the United States in 2022 and 2023. These plants, owned by Aluminum Association member companies Aluminum Dynamics (owned by Steel Dynamics, Inc.) and Novelis, will represent nearly $5 billion in investment and thousands of new advanced manufacturing jobs once completed.
Among other key findings from the survey:
- Respondents identified the following workforce recruitment challenges:
- Interest in entering aluminum and manufacturing workforce
- Finding qualified workers, especially engineers
- Work-life balance
- Respondents identified the following approximate breakdown of their current workforce and identified Operations and Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) workers as their most critical need over the next 5 years:
- Operations (e.g., loader driver, casting pit operator, production operator): 50%
- Business & Administration (e.g., finance, marketing, supply chain, logistics): 15%
- Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) (e.g., engineering, metallurgy, environmental health & safety, quality control): 15%
- Maintenance (e.g., electricians, millwrights, machinists, journeymen, technical repairs): 15%
- Professional Leadership (e.g., directors, VPs, executive staff): 5%
- Approximately half of respondents identified at least a partially unionized workforce with an average of 50% union workers at unionized facilities.
- Nearly 25% of identified workers were over 55 while fewer than 20% of workers were below 25. The average age of a current employee is 42 years old.
- Respondents reported an average of 18% workers of color with some companies reporting 40 – 50% workers of color.
- Around 56% of respondents are working to increase gender and/or racial diversity within their workforce. 19% reported targeted efforts to hire more military veterans.
- More than 60% of respondents are engaged in next generation recruitment efforts including internships, apprenticeships and/or partnerships with local high schools, universities and trade schools.
- Approximately 30% of respondents operate in the Southeast and 22% operate in the Midwest. Respondents expect to have most workforce needs in these regions over the next 5 years.
Safety is our number one priority
The aluminum industry is deeply committed to worker health and safety. Learn more about the Aluminum Association's programs, which complement industry efforts to ensure the well-being of our tens of thousands of employees nationwide.
Recruiting tomorrow's workforce
We partner with a number of groups to help recruit the next generation of manufacturing workers. Learn how the National Association of Manufacturers' Creators Wanted campaign is helping to build tomorrow's workforce.