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Job Instability and the Manufacturing Skills Gap


The Manufacturing Institute recently joined the accounting firm Deloitte in crunching some numbers that may alarm manufacturing leaders. According to a study from the two organizations, U.S. employers will be unable to fill an estimated 2 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade. The reason, a lack of qualified applicants, shows that manufacturing’s “skills gap” is real.
What else does the research indicate? For starters, the 450 manufacturing executives who were surveyed say that applicants’ lack of skills are the main reason why 60% of today’s job openings remain unfilled. Alan Wheaton of the Cornell University Worker Institute disagrees. “The skills shortage disappears once you raise wages,” Wheaton explains.
If manufacturers paid higher wages, would the “skills gap” disappear? Not necessarily. To be sure, some workers would choose manufacturing careers and invest in the requisite education and training because of possible higher, future incomes. Yet manufacturing also suffers from negative perceptions that would deter such career decisions.
For example, in their survey of 1,000 households, Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute learned that only 37% of parents would not encourage their children to pursue manufacturing careers. Advocates of modern manufacturing are eager to refute claims that factory work is dull, dirty, and dangerous. Yet these weren’t the reasons that parents expressed concern.
According to the research, parents worry that manufacturing jobs are the first to be shipped overseas and that manufacturing careers lack stability. After decades of outsourcing and downsizing, there’s a rational basis for such skepticism. How can today’s manufacturing employers refute these stereotypes, and how will tomorrow’s manufacturing executives fill those 2 million jobs?
Image Credit: © Puchalt/Dollar Photo Club


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