ManufacturingDoug Parsons needs to hire more than two dozen skilled workers at his manufacturing plant here, but he can’t find them.

Parsons’ problem was heightened last year when company sales grew 60 percent. To try to keep up, he hired about 30 to 40 machinists but needs more.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that the pool of qualified, trained, experienced workers is not sufficient to meet demand,” said Parsons, president and chief executive of Excel Foundry & Machine, which makes parts for machines used in the mining industry.

Younger workers lack the skills to tap into a job that at Parsons’ plant could pay up to $23 per hour. Part of the problem is that after decades of layoffs and outsourcing, young workers see manufacturing as dead, dying or offering jobs that are too dirty to bother with.

The lack of skilled workers is not new. In Parsons’ case, he created his own training program in 2004 and started reaching out to local high schools and colleges to educate young workers about careers in manufacturing.

Other companies are taking a similar tack. They also are partnering with state agencies and manufacturing associations to improve education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are key to landing jobs in today’s manufacturing sector.

Nationwide, an estimated 600,000 manufacturing jobs are going unfilled, according to a survey by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute published last year. Manufacturers expect the shortage to worsen in the next three to five years as older workers retire.

“Exacerbating the issue is the stubbornly poor perception of manufacturing jobs among younger workers,” the report says, adding that manufacturing ranks at the bottom of industries in which young workers would chose to start their careers.

Even the White House is trying to change the image of manufacturing. In his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama said American manufacturers were key to rebuilding the U.S. economy. “We have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it.”

Source: MCT Information Services