The majority of assemblers are employed in manufacturing, industries such as food, drink and tobacco; rubber/non-metal mineral products; textiles, clothing & leather; basic metals & metal products; wholesale and retail trade; wood, paper, print, publishing; and motor vehicles.
- The majority of assemblers are employed in manufacturing industries such as food, drink and tobacco; rubber/non-metal mineral products; textiles, clothing & leather; basic metals & metal products; wholesale and retail trade; wood, paper, print, publishing; and motor vehicles.
- In the workplace, routine, teamwork and gather and evaluate information are the most important tasks and skills of assemblers.
- Around 1.7 million people were employed as assemblers in 2018. Employment in the occupation, following the financial crisis in 2008, fell by 17 per cent between 2006 and 2018.
- Employment is projected to grow by 23 per cent over the period 2018 to 2030 – almost 400 thousand new jobs. In addition, an estimated 700 thousand will be needed to replace workers who will leave their workplaces.
- In 2018, 64% of assemblers had medium-level qualifications, and only 8% had high-level qualifications. Between 2018 and 2030, the share of low- and medium-level qualified assemblers is expected to decline slightly, while the share of high-qualified assemblers is likely to rise to about 14%.
Tasks and skills
Assemblers  are a relatively homogenous group of workers who assemble prefabricated parts or components to form subassemblies, products and equipment, according to strict procedures. The two main subgroups are; mechanical machinery assemblers and electrical and electronic equipment assemblers.
Tasks performed usually include: assembling components into various types of products and equipment; reviewing work orders, specifications, diagrams and drawings to determine materials needed and assembly instructions; recording production and operational data on specified forms; inspecting and testing completed components and assemblies and wiring installations and circuits; rejecting faulty assemblies and components.
According to Eurofound's Job Monitor, the key 3 tasks and skills of assemblers are routine, teamwork and gather and evaluate information.
Figure 1: Importance of tasks and skills of assemblers
Note: The importance of tasks and skills is measured on 0-1 scale, where 0 means least important and 1 means most important.
What are the trends for the future? 
The employment level of assemblers across sectors is expected to increase by 23 per cent between 2018 and 2030 which more than makes up for the contraction in employment over the period 2006 to 2018, when employment fell by 17 per cent. The employment growth of assemblers is expected in 21 of 28 analysed countries while only in 7 countries the occupation's employment is expected to decline.
Figure 2: Future employment growth of assemblers in European countries (2018-2030, in %)
The 23 per cent growth in employment understates the growth in demand for people to work as assemblers. Over the period 2018-2030, around 700,000 people are projected to leave the occupation for one reason or another such as retirement and they will have to be replaced.
Given the projected increase in employment over the same period, this will result in around 1 million job openings that will need to be filled between 2018 and 2030.
Figure 3: Future job openings of assemblers (2018-2030)
The majority of assemblers are employed in manufacturing, industries such as food, drink and tobacco; rubber/non-metal mineral products; textiles, clothing & leather; basic metals & metal products; wholesale and retail trade; wood, paper, print, publishing; and motor vehicles. Over time, the share of assemblers working in manufacturing is expected to decline, while that in sectors such as wholesale and retail will increase.
In 2018, with regard to education level, 64% of assemblers had medium-level qualifications, and only 8% had high-level qualifications. Between 2018 and 2030, the share of low- and medium-level qualified assemblers is expected to decline slightly, while the share of high-qualified assemblers is likely to rise to about 14%.
More information on employment trends and other characteristics of assemblers can be found here.
Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
Significant changes already take place in the large employers/sectors of assemblers, which means assemblers heavily rely on developments in manufacturing, ranging from production modes, value chains, new organisational structures and, of course, technological advancements. In turn, their job tasks and skills are expected to change. Drivers that affect all sectors, such as restructuring of value chains  inevitably affect assemblers as well, since their job tasks depend on the nature and way of production of the assembled product.
- Production modes and characteristics of several types of products change to accommodate shifts in consumer demand for niche and customised products. At the same time, strong rise in demand for sustainable products and eco-design  also affects production modes and the use new materials and machines. Assemblers will subsequently need skills to handle these new materials and corresponding machine operations. Moreover, the emphasis on reducing the material waste and increasing the efficiency of the production process (e.g. the supply-circle management ) lead to improvements in monitoring and quality control. Assemblers responsible for such parts of the production will inevitably need relevant skills and competences .
- Advances in technology are already reshaping manufacturing in terms of the structures of value and supply chains, organisations, as well as spreading the automation of production, logistics etc.
Automation could be perceived as the key driver of changes in assemblers’ employment and skills, as greater use of computer-controlling machines may reduce the number of their jobs or the change their job tasks. Some assembler jobs could be threatened by further factory automation, as already there are examples of two-armed robots working as assemblers. Redefining their role, automation and digitalisation overall could require assemblers to move into roles of technicians or machine operators. Others may need to engage into more customer service and design roles as one-off, customised goods become more readily available. In such cases, software and programming skills (e.g. in 3-D printing and rapid prototyping) will be needed. 
- Trends like technology advancements, trade globalisation coupled with outsourcing and off-shoring of some EU manufacturing industries change business models, value chain composition or social partners’ relations. For example, the automotive industry  has already responded to increasingly interdisciplinary technological advancements by engulfing stronger cross-disciplinary and inter-sectoral collaboration. Automotive assemblers rely more heavily on partners that provide supporting technologies and services. Clustering and new forms of public-private partnerships transcend new ways of collaborating, transmitting knowledge across sectors; in turn, assemblers could be faced with a broader set of collaborators/providers, highlighting the need for understanding other sectors, cross-sectoral working, team spirit, communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and effective working under pressure). 
- Risk of automation: As a part of its Digitalization and future of work project, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in occupations where employees report little access to professional training that could help them cope with labour market changes. Assemblers are reportedly an occupation with very high risk of automation.
How can these skill needs be met?
The need for broader and/or more specialised skills is reflected in the expected increase of highly skilled assemblers. Therefore, prospective assemblers will benefit by seeking to gain technical skills and qualifications through VET pathways, such as apprenticeships. An example of the type of teaching offered in an apprenticeship programme for electronic equipment assemblers can be found below:
Apprenticeship programme for electronic equipment assembler
- Solid basic training in electrical laboratory and in the training workshop
- Manufacturing of electronic and electrical components in the production departments
- Building and wiring of switch cabinets
- Build up basic training with a part exam at the end of the 2nd year of training
- Commissioning of conventional cylindrical grinding machines
- Priority training in various fields
- Apprenticeship examination in the selected area
Courses during the teaching
- Programming SPS (programmable logic controller)
- Basic course on grinding
The skill needs implied by the abovementioned drivers stress the importance of upskilling assemblers already in employment, to keep them informed of technological changes and improve their productivity as well as their employers’ . As many employees will be working on a greater variety of tasks, especially in manufacturing, (re)training would preferably include a broader set of skills than the only job-specific ones. Employers will also benefit by developing and supporting positive organisational culture towards change, to facilitate the adoption of new processes, and the respective adjustment of tasks and skills .
Adult learning and training opportunities can ensure that workers, especially those with low-level qualifications, remain marketable. This is particularly relevant with regard to soft skills: given the practice of working across different sectors, and the prospect of specialisation in more niche and customised products, assemblers are needed who are more team-oriented and more communicative, both in oral and written communication .
All web-links were last accessed February 7th, 2020.
 Defined as ISCO 08 group 82 Assemblers. ILO, (2012), International Standard Classification of Occupations ISCO-08. More information on the occupation can be found here.
 All figures from 2016 Cedefop forecast except where stated.
 Value chains are being restructured across sectors, due to numerous reasons: globalisation can be identified as the most important one: value chains are becoming more global, which affects how companies are structured, who are their partners and suppliers; the liberalisation of international trade and the continuous developments in ICT are also one of the drivers that allow companies to ‘re-think what activities will be organised where and under which organisational configurations’ (Ramioul, M 2007, Global Restructuring of Value Chains and the Effects on the Employment, Technikfolgenabschätzung – Theorie und Praxis Nr. 2, 16. Jg.); changing consumer demands, for example, towards using environmentally responsible production processes and resources also affect how products are developed as well as the organisational structure (for example, see developments in the steel industry).
 European Commission, (2012), Ecodesign Your Future – How eco-design can help the environment by making products smarter
 Mohr, S., Somers, K., Swartz, S. & Vanthournout, H. (2012), in McKinsey&Company (ed), Manufacturing resource productivity.
 European Vocational Training Association, (2009), Future Skills and Training Needs: a prospect
 ‘Industrial-robot supplier ABB is launching a two-armed robot called YuMi that is specifically designed to assemble products (such as consumer electronics) alongside humans. Two padded arms and computer vision allow for safe interaction and parts recognition. ‘Boston Consulting Group, Industry 4.0 The future productivity and growth in manufacturing industries, viewed 20 July 2016.
 Proskills UK, (2012), The sector skills assessment 2010 for the process and manufacturing sector and McKinsey Global Institute 2012, Manufacturing the future: the next era of global growth and innovation
 UKCES, (2012), Manufacturing: Sector Skills Assessment
 Automotive Policy Research Centre, (2014), Recent trends in manufacturing innovation policy for the automotive sector: a survey of the US, Mexico, EU, Germany, and Spain, viewed 20 July 2016
 Worldskills, (2015), Worldskills standard specification – Skill 16 Electronics
 UK Government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, (2010), Growth Review Framework for Advanced Manufacturing
 Boston Consulting Group, (2015), Man and Machine Industry 4.0 How Will Technology Transform the Industrial Workforce Through 2025?, viewed 20 July 2016
 Accenture, (2013), Skills and Employment Trends Survey: Perspectives on Training