Skills gap could hurt domestic manufacturingEven though many reports have revealed the U.S. economy is still shaky, some manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with strong demand. However, this could be due to the "skills gap" that is leaving many operations without the skilled workers they need to produce a substantial amount of product.

With national unemployment still high, some are confused as to why so many domestic manufacturing positions are going unfilled. However, more young people are pursuing four-year college degrees rather than enrolling in the technical schools or apprenticeship programs necessary to learn manufacturing skills. According to a 2011 study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, as many as 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are going unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers.

Thinking outside the box
Some U.S. manufacturers have been trying to advertise the positions they are unable to fill by advertising them to the unemployed, but many have found they get a minimal response from such postings.

In light of the enormous skills gap that threatens U.S. manufacturing, some companies have started to build relationships with veterans and military personnel. According to Plant Engineering magazine, many military members are trained to work with sophisticated equipment, have a strong work ethic and possess critical thinking skills to solve problems that may arise during the manufacturing process. Working with veterans not only allows manufacturers to increase their output, it also ensures those who have served the nation have a stable job after returning from a tour of duty.

Changing manufacturing
Because of the shortage of qualified applicants, some companies are implementing new strategies to ensure they can meet at least some of their consumer demands. The Global Post reported that some firms are completely unable to find workers to staff overnight shifts, and are using machines to keep operations moving through the night.

However, some organizations may be unable to use the latest technology to keep up with demand as the skills gap contributes to manufacturing worker shortages. The Deloitte survey findings revealed that 74 percent of manufacturers claimed the lack of skilled workers made it harder for them to increase production or expand. In these instances, companies that purchase their products may encounter problems in the production supply chain and be unable to receive all the goods they need.
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  1. Skills gaps do exist and are getting worse in the economy today, and it's prudent for communities to invest in solutions. One of them is career and technical education (CTE), which has proven to produce a return in areas like improved student achievement, career prospects, more trained workers for the jobs of today and improved community vitality.

    The Industry Workforce Needs Council is a new group of businesses working together to spotlight skills gaps and advocate for CTE as a means of bridging them. For stats and other information, or to join the effort, visit

    Jason Sprenger, for the IWNC