U.S. Manufacturers Say Skills Gap Could Compromise Competitiveness

Career College Central summary:

  • American manufacturers are increasingly finding that prospective workers do not have the skill set required to perform necessary job functions, such as basic math and computer abilities. The so-called “skills gap,” if unresolved, could compromise manufacturers’ ability to stay competitive, according to some industry leaders. The cause of the gap is multifaceted. Manufacturing activity has increased in the U.S. for nearly a  year and with it grows businesses’ need for skilled workers. Exacerbating the shortage is the wave of retiring baby boomers, those Americans born between 1946 and 1964.
  • To start to fill the gap, companies such as Batesville Tool & Die Inc., which makes metal stampings for vehicles, have turned their attention to attracting and training younger workers. “We've got six to seven openings all the time, and our turnaround is low,” said Chief Executive Officer Jody Fledderman, one of four panelists that participated in a discussion about the skills gap at the National Press Club Tuesday in Washington. “There are new positions that aren't getting filled. We’re trying to develop young people that can stay in industry for years.” The Batesville, Indiana-based company has partnered with local high schools to develop a technical program to educate students, both in the classroom and on-site, about work in manufacturing.
  • U.S. manufacturing employs more than 12 million workers directly, recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show. There remain, however, about 600,000 skilled manufacturing jobs unfilled, according to a 2012 study by Deloitte LLP.
  • The number of open positions could edge even further up as Americans age out of the workforce. By 2030, more than 20 percent of Americans are projected to be aged 65 and over, compared with 13 percent in 2010 and 9.8 percent in 1970, a recent study from the U.S. Census Bureau showed. This further depletes the share of skilled manufacturing laborers, especially among the upper echelons of company management. Part of the challenge for manufacturing business leaders in attracting young talent lies in correcting the stigma associated with work in the industry, Toth said.

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