Small manufacturers address growing skills gap

With the manufacturing sector gaining momentum, more companies are looking to hire workers to increase their production and meet growing demand. However, they may face the challenge of finding technically skilled workers who have the certifications necessary to meet production specifications. This problem is especially pertinent to small business manufacturing companies looking to get off the ground or expand their operations.

In Minnesota, the state will need to add 12,000 positions by 2020 to match the manufacturing growth projected over this time period, a report by the Center for Rural Policy and Development stated. Brad Finstad, director of the rural policy center, said one out of five employees are employed by manufacturing companies in southern Minnesota, St. Peter Herald reported. The region, which faces an uphill battle to hire qualified workers for the manufacturing sector, illustrates a larger problem within the U.S. regarding a lack of employable skills.

This skills gap could put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage compared to countries that have abilities needed for the workforce, The New York Times reported. U.S. adults were found to have average or below average literacy and math skills when ranked with other developed countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"Unless there is a significant change of direction, the workforce skills of other OECD countries will overtake those of the U.S. just at the moment when all OECD countries will be facing (and indeed are already facing) major and fast-increasing competitive challenges from emerging economies," the OECD report said.

Manufacturing firms looking to solve skills gap

A deficit in crucial math and literacy skills could add to the growing skills gap manufacturing companies may face. Some manufacturing companies in southern Minnesota are looking to hire a significant number of employees but have hit a series of roadblocks when hiring qualified workers. Anne Olson, human resources manager at Davisco Foods, said it has been a struggle to find people for technical jobs. However, she said there are positions that could be filled with people even if they have minimal training, if they are willing to learn.

Brian Scoggin, executive vice president of operations at Cambria, said the company plans to hire a hundred workers over the course of six months but they will have to go through a rigorous training program.

"We can't hire people a week out and just throw them on the line," Scoggin told St. Peter Herald. "There's 90 days of learning, learning Cambria culture and our operations, first."

To fill the skills gap, some companies have increasingly turned to manufacturing automation to reduce their direct labor costs and improve efficiency, which may change the industry's future.

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