Friday, December 16, 2016

Lack of qualified workers leaves manufacturers struggling to fill jobs; rural drug use is an issue

The manufacturing industry isn't dying, it's changing, with the enterprises flourishing today demanding "a different set of skills than assembly lines of the past," Danielle Paquette reports for The Washington Post. That has led some businesses to struggle to find qualified candidates to fill jobs that pay $20 or more per hour.

Business professor Michael Hicks, at Ball State University in Indiana, said "one reason for the labor shortage is the fear of change," Paquette writes. "Many of the open roles involve computer assistance, which requires job training. Although some companies and state programs will cover the tuition bills, some workers, particularly those who’ve held the same job for decades, are hesitant to take them up on the offer, even if unemployment is imminent and the wages are competitive."

Hicks said another problem is that young people aren't filling the open slots, Paquette writes. "They don’t flock to mid-sized cities like they do to, say, Chicago. The share of employees older than 45 in the skilled trades, for example, is about 25 percent larger than for the broader workforce. Drug use, on the rise in rural counties, also disqualifies a chunk of prospective hires, Hicks said."

The Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning research group, released a report Wednesday "that 88 percent of American manufacturers said they have difficulty finding workers," stating: “There are an estimated half-million more ‘skilled trades’ jobs (i.e., for non-college-educated workers) available than people trained to fill them."

"Although the country added thousands of manufacturing jobs since 2010, the numbers haven't come close to returning to pre-recession levels, a consequence of both trade and technology," Paquette writes. "There were about 17 million manufacturing jobs in 2000, and that number today sits closer to 12 million, according to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The shrinkage accelerated in the years after the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, enabling companies to tap cheap labor overseas and bringing down the prices of consumer goods."

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