Even with unemployment at 9 percent, manufacturers are struggling to find enough skilled workers, says an intriguing story in Friday’s Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper cites three reasons for the trend: manufacturing jobs are growing modestly; baby boomers are retiring; and the talent pool isn’t big enough right now.
“The U.S. education system isn’t turning out enough people with the math and science skills needed to operate and repair sophisticated computer-controlled factory equipment, jobs that often pay $50,000 to $80,000 a year, plus benefits,” the story says. “Manufacturers say parents and guidance counselors discourage bright kids from even considering careers in manufacturing.”
The article cites numerous examples of companies that can’t fill their technical openings. Administrators at a plastics plant in Baytown, TX, for example, told The Wall Street Journal that they have had technicians’ jobs open for six to nine months, largely because they couldn’t find qualified applicants. A decade ago, such jobs typically attracted 100 applications. Now they attract 10, the newspaper says.
“Manufacturers say the U.S. education system doesn’t produce enough students strong in math, science and engineering,” writes WSJ author James R. Hagerty. “About 5 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the U.S. are in engineering, compared with an average of about 20 percent in Asia, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation.”