A Shortage of Skilled Factory Workers?

by Nathan Harden

A CNN story suggests that we aren’t training enough people in certain technical and high-skill factory jobs:

The number of workers employed in factories is still more than 2 million lower than pre-recession levels due to layoffs or plant closings.

But experts in manufacturing staffing say that many of the factory workers who find themselves without a job simply don’t have the specialized skills now in short supply.

“There are a lot of people out there looking for work who are assemblers, who are semi-skilled,” said Jeff Owens, president of ATS, a manufacturing consulting firm. “There is definitely a shortage of people who are very capable to make the factories run.”

This story came as a surprise to me, given the depressed state of the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy. Assuming it is accurate, it provides yet another piece of evidence that we need to find ways to more efficiently allocate our educational and vocational training resources.

We’ve got millions of people with college degrees who can’t find jobs. Meanwhile, we can’t find anyone to fill skilled manufacturing positions? And, despite all the money our nation invests in education, we can’t train enough low-skilled workers to do these kinds of high-skill (and higher-paying) jobs? Something’s out of whack.

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