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Report: Battery Industry Needs More Workers with Higher Skills

The lead author of a new Center for Automotive Research report on the state of the battery industry workforce explains.

Ray Chalmers

May 15, 2024

5 Min Read
Manufacturing workers
The battery industry is facing a shortage of skilled workers.Eakgrunge / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The current hallmarks of the “Electrification of Everything” age are explosive growth and strong forecasted demand for improved battery products and performance across mobility, energy storage, consumer electronics, and a myriad of additional industries. Attracting, training, and retaining a workforce foundation across the entire battery supply chain requires immediate attention and coordinated effort.

So states a pre-publication copy of Examining Workforce Needs for North America: Battery Industry Education and Training Needs Assessment (or BIETNA), a new 135-page report from the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), conducted under contract with Argonne National Laboratory and the Department of Energy (DOE), who are currently assessing report results for later release. In addition, Argonne’s Li-Bridge and the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (NAATBatt) Education Committee partnered in the project.

State of the workforce

The current state of the battery industry workforce? “The current workforce won’t meet the growing battery demand as it stands right now,” lead author and industry analyst Lisa Krusemark, Ph.D., curtly told Battery Technology:

“Even as the battery industry scales up across upstream (mining and materials processing) and downstream (cell and pack manufacturing through to end-of-life recycling) sectors, we still expect a workforce shortfall. This study aims to outline the necessary skills to support the battery industry demand on a national scale.”

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The BIETNA assessment targeted survey respondents from organizations across the entire battery supply chain, including the aforementioned upstream and downstream sectors. Respondents from complementary industry sectors include those from research and development, training, equipment manufacturing, and testing sectors.

Urgent needs

Addressing workforce shortages may be the most apparent need in the BIETNA, but industry-related skills gaps are also urgent. A full 82% of BIETNA survey respondents reported shortages of local skilled applicants. Quoting from the report, job roles in shortest supply industry-wide included engineers, technicians, and manufacturers/assemblers.

A closer look at the specific types of engineering and technician roles revealed general technical and engineering roles were in shortest supply, followed by more specialized technical and engineering roles in battery, manufacturing, and electrical domains. Although respondents from all sectors reported shortages of engineers and technicians, upstream sector respondents also reported shortages of scientists.

The report goes on to address critical skills gaps among current employees and incoming applicants. Industry-wide, the greatest skills gaps are in electrochemistry, battery chemistry, battery management systems, product & system design, manufacturing, and safety.

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The upstream sector’s most significant skills gaps are in extraction and mining (including automation and robotics), metallurgical/mineral processing, chemistry, and chemical engineering. Downstream sector companies reported gaps in electrochemistry/battery chemistry, battery materials engineering, and battery management systems.

Advanced manufacturing skills are essential to support the growth of pre-commercial production facilities and the broader need to rapidly bring businesses to scale. Skills gaps reported in advanced manufacturing focused on managing and running automated tools, problem-solving, diagnostics, modeling, testing/validation as well as automated process control aspects of materials science, chemistry, and electrochemistry.

Whether the focus is on the entire industry or a specific sector of the value chain, the most frequently reported skills gaps in BIETNA center on chemistry (including battery chemistry and electrochemistry).

Quickly climbing demand

Addressing battery-industry workforce shortages and significant skills gaps becomes even more critical considering the anticipated six-fold increase in domestic battery workforce demand by 2030, the report says. Industry-wide, BIETNA results show employers anticipate short-term increases in hiring demand (2023-2026) that will continue increasing in the longer-term (2026-2030).

The expected sustained increase in hiring demand is further compounded by expectations of industry scale-up during that period. Over the next three years, most employers from upstream and downstream sectors report that up to 25% of their total hires will be skilled employees. Upstream organizations estimate the greatest hiring in mineral exploration, whereas downstream organizations estimate the greatest hiring in component manufacturing.

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Additionally, most employers in both sectors expect hiring to increase more than 20% across all levels of training and education between 2023–2026. Upstream respondents expect the greatest short-term hiring increases for employees with on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and two-year degree training. Downstream respondents expect the greatest short-term hiring increases for employees with on-the-job training and four-year degree education.

Industry synchronicity

Where training is concerned, such strong hiring momentum requires synchronization between employers and educators and augmenting the current training infrastructure, the report says. Several strategic priorities emerged from the BIETNA responses as essential methods for boosting the workforce supply:

  • Align education and training content with industry needs to expedite and optimize industry job placement.

  • Develop infrastructure for hands-on training (e.g., equipped training facilities).

  • Support continuing education to reskill existing workers, displaced workers, and programs for workers from disadvantaged and tribal communities.

In addition to strengthening workforce skills, fostering equitable accessibility to employment ensures stronger access to job opportunities for disadvantaged communities while simultaneously expanding the workforce and boosting industry competitiveness. Results from the BIETNA illustrate that organizations are aligned with efforts to support equitable access to job

Attract and grow

Asked if there were surprises or revelations in conducting the research and compiling the results, Krusemark replied, “One thing that became apparent is how we can attract more talent for the battery industry and convince them how exciting it is, first, to be in such a strong growth industry; and second, to directly participate in making the planet more sustainable.”

Points worth pondering.

For a link to the report, visit the CAR Website: www.cargroup.org/BIETNA

About the Author(s)

Ray Chalmers

Ray Chalmers is a Detroit-area-based freelance writer with an extensive background supplying technical features and news items on manufacturing, engineering, software, economics, and the myriad paths of knowledge representing human progress.

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