Many frustrated manufacturers say jobs are going unfilled because qualified workers are missing.
- Unemployment hovers above 9 percent.
- Foreign competition has thrown many out of work.
- Many contend that the U.S. needs more manufacturing work.
- Many manufacturers say that, in fact, the jobs are already here.
- A recent report by Deloitte for the Manufacturing Institute, based on a survey of manufacturers, found that as many as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled.
- What’s missing are the skilled workers needed to fill them.
- “We need more people. The trouble is finding them.”
Technology has driven up complexity and job requirements
Automation has transformed factories and altered the skills needed to operate and maintain factory equipment, the laid-off workers, who may be familiar with the old-fashioned presses and lathes, are often unqualified to run the new.
“It used to be that a factory owner would say, ‘I need 20 guys,’ and pull them right off the street,” said P.J. Thompson, president of Trans-Matic, a metal-parts manufacturer. “Now it’s: ‘I need 20 guys with very specialized technical skills.’ There’s a mismatch.”
Much of the demand for skilled workers arises because the automated factories demand workers who can operate, program and maintain the new computerized equipment. Many of those who have been laid off can operate only the old-fashioned manual machines.
The leap in technology means that many of the workers who once toiled on the old machines, and had become proficient on them, can no longer find jobs.
“You don’t see anyone advertising for just a tool and die maker anymore,” said Tom Whitmore, 59, a tool and die maker who was laid off in 2009 after 33 years at a nearby auto parts maker. “ They want CNC skills. For most of them, I can’t apply.”
Whitmore and two of his co-workers are attending classes at Lake Michigan College to attain an associate’s degree in machine tool technology. “I’m a statistic,” said Mark Miller, 36, whose home went into foreclosure after he was laid off as a production technician.
Not Just Run a Machine, Program It
“I came straight out of high school and found a job. But these days, you have to have some technical skills. When I get out of here, the idea is to be able not just to run a machine but to program it.”