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A Closer Look At The Skills Gap

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Skills gap: When there are manufacturing jobs on the table but not enough workers with the training, education or capabilities to get them.

Evidence of the disparity can be found in job shops throughout the nation (especially in technical capacities), and it’s been substantiated by a survey of executives. The survey shows that 600,000 manufacturing jobs are currently going unfilled.

These are jobs that don’t require a college degree, necessarily, but they do demand a technical instruction and mechanical aptitude. Not just anyone can weld, or tackle CNC machining, without substantial training. And, unfortunately, very many of those whom can are nearing retirement age.

Not only is a retiring workforce an issue, manufacturers are adopting increasingly challenging technologies and processes, but the incoming manufacturing work force needs to build an awareness early-on about what kind of manufacturing jobs are now available, and that too often there is “precious little understanding” in what is happening in manufacturing.

There are more positions opening up in fields such as biotechnology and in semiconductor plants. These are not the manufacturing jobs of 30 years go. The world has added a billion people to global workforce since 1990. If you’re a worker, you face a lot more competition nowadays. How do you differentiate yourself? You’ve got to be capable of doing things others can’t do. If you just do the basic math of what’s happened to the economic environment, it’s clear that the worker has got to be capable of doing things others can’t do.

While no one is contesting that a skills gap exists, new data suggests that it may not be as sizeable as previously thought. In mid-October, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) purported that the skills gap isn’t so dire, affecting only 80,000 to 100,000 jobs.

To recognize where skills gaps exist in the United States, BCG used wage data and manufacturing-job vacancy rates to assess areas where wage growth has exceeded inflation by at least 3 percentage points annually for five years. “Wage growth is a widely accepted indicator of skills shortages in other sectors, such as energy; it reveals where employers have been forced to bid up pay to attract hard-to-find workers,” BCG says. By BCG’s designation, just five of the country’s 50 biggest manufacturing towns suffer significantly from skills gaps. The positions most in demand here are welders, machinists and industrial-machinery mechanics.

The analysis also uses a study of more than 100  manufacturing executives at companies with annual sales of $1 billion or higher. The findings underscore the idea that worries of a skills gap crisis are overblown,” BCG notes. “Thirty-seven percent of respondents whose companies had shifted manufacturing to the U.S. from another country cited “better access to skilled workforce or talent” as a strong factor in their decision. 

The disparities in data come down to how we define highly skilled workers. Past research has grouped these workers in with those whose jobs are part of direct production, where the BCG’s research refers to skilled workers as those with more technical capabilities. The research does show the same age gap problem that companies face. According to the BCG, the average. high-skilled manufacturing worker is 56 years old.

Based on statistics it is estimated, that the shortage of highly skilled manufacturing workers could worsen to approximately 875,000 machinists, welders, industrial-machinery mechanics and industry engineers by 2020.

No matter what data you’re looking at, all parties agree that manufacturers and schools must put a premium on training. Several prominent manufacturers have already begun partnering with community colleges to get a head start. Programs such as Quick Start offer free tailored workforce training and retraining, in partnership with technical colleges across Georgia, for companies such as NCR and Caterpillar. To qualify, companies have to create 15 similar jobs within a year.
Any new manufacturing recruits to be adaptable and educated. Be willing to go to a trade or technical school to educate yourself in the area that you want to pursue (CNC, machine trades), as well as blueprint reading, GD&T and problem solving courses.

Reference: QM



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