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Identifying and Addressing the Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing

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Manufacturers worry because they are unable to fill as many as 600,000 skilled labor positions, even in the midst of depressing unemployment numbers. While some argue this number is closer to 80,000, the consensus is that there is a skills gap, and the lack of qualified workers is only going to get worse. In fact, large numbers of manufacturing facilities report that the lack of labor is already stalling their plans for expansions.

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On the flip side, labor groups argue that there is no skills gap; the only problem is that manufacturing companies refuse to pay what it costs to hire, train, and employ a highly skilled worker. Most of the reports involve shortages for welders, machinists, and maintenance workers trained to work on industrial equipment. According to these critics, manufacturers are not investing what it takes to get the skills they need.

In order to address the skills gap, a number of states have begun initiatives to recruit and train workers for these skilled manufacturing jobs. In addition to reaching out to high schools, manufacturers are also recruiting on community college campuses, and working together with college administrators to get the word out to students that these career opportunities exist.

Another potential source for highly skilled workers lies in military veterans returning from war. Many of these veterans already have the skills necessary for these skilled manufacturing jobs, and many others could be easily trained to use skills they acquired in the military and translate those skills to the jobs available at the manufacturing plants.

Minnesota and Wisconsin are among those states taking such initiatives. Louisiana, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Kansas have also been identified as states with serious skills gap problems. In addition to recruiting and training initiatives, some manufacturers are also looking into how higher wages and better on the job training programs can help alleviate the shortages. [/show_to] 

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