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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/3/10

Dilemma: Manufacturing Jobs Available, Not Enough Applicants to Fill Them, What To Do

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An interesting phenomenon is occurring in the manufacturing sector of the U.S.

Unexpectedly (at least to this observer) it seems this sector is one of the few bright spots in the economy, adding jobs rather than shedding them.

Yet a problem exists between the skill levels of many of the job applicants and the specialized needs of the manufacturers.[1]

According to one chief executive interviewed in the Cleveland, Ohio area said, "The people that are out of work just don't match the type of jobs that are here, open and growing."[2]

Two areas of demand are in advanced "medical devices and wind turbines" as well as "people who can operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency"not previously required of the typical assembly line worker."[3]

Many manufacturers report, "They will never bring back many of the low-skilled jobs and that training is not yet delivering the skilled employees they need."[4]

One drug manufacturer requires applicants that "can read and understand math at a ninth grade level. Many of the job seekers failed and the company has been disappointed by the quality of graduates from job training programs. It is now struggling to fill 100 positions."[5]

Quite simply, greater automation has replaced the need for low level skilled workers while increasing the demand for workers with more advanced skills.

To this observer a two pronged dilemma is occurring that needs to be addressed nationally as well as the state and local levels.

As to the long termed unemployed of today, those with low level skill sets and the inability or aptitude to acquire the higher level computerized and specialized training being demanded, there is the need to reintroduce government sponsored and funded depression era type programs such as the CCC (civilian conservation corps) and the WPA (works projects administration). The idea that you let a significant portion of your population remain structurally unemployable and left to languish and offer them little hope is morally reprehensible and bankrupt, in effect callously assigning them to the dung heap. We can not continue to let this happen and consider ourselves a just and honorable society.

The second prong of this dilemma has to do with our education system. Everyone is not meant for college and higher education and the idea of putting the majority of our students on an academic track is educational hubris, pure bunk.

Many of our non college bound youth have the aptitude and the ability to benefit from sophisticated apprenticeship type training programs (if they were made available) geared toward attaining the specialized skills needed for today's higher level manufacturing needs. Give the manufacturers government sponsored incentives i.e. tax breaks and subsidies to initiate their own apprenticeship type job training programs for entry level jobs in their specialized industries.

This would work better than the present publicly funded and generalized vocational type job training schools that can not provide the sophisticated and specialized training an apprenticeship program operated by a particular manufacturer can provide.

In the short term (reluctantly) it may be necessary for our more highly sophisticated manufacturers to receive approval to hire abroad i.e. get special compensation to recruit highly skilled foreign labor if their needs remain unavailable domestically. This may be politically unfeasible considering our existing high unemployment rate but if it was done in conjunction with a government sponsored, incentive laden apprenticeship training program for manufacturers and for our non college bound youth it could be more politically palatable.

If our sophisticated manufacturing sector is on the cusp of growth it needs to be nurtured with government as a facilitator and partner, not by interfering and meddling but by providing incentives to industry that is willing to specialize train our young people just entering the work world and who are not college bound.

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