Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Manufacturers try to woo workers to rural areas

Rural manufacturers, desperate for employees, are facing a huge shortage of workers. "Shortages may seem counterintuitive, given the widespread fear that automation, robotics and offshoring have all reduced employment in manufacturing," Ellen Rosen reports for The New York Times. "While jobs in absolute numbers have declined from a decade ago, the sustained economic recovery, a lack of skilled workers and the retirement of many baby boomers have led to open positions. Even though the gyrating tariff environment is causing anxiety across industries, manufacturers are still hiring."

About a third of companies surveyed by the Manufacturing Institute said they had had to turn away new work because they didn't have enough workers. So companies and state and local governments are increasing recruiting efforts to lure workers to rural areas, offering higher wages, tax incentives for relocation, enhanced training, and even student-loan forgiveness. Long-term, some are partnering with local schools to try to grow and retain local talent. Some companies are offering incentives to keep older employees from retiring, or re-hiring them as consultants or part-time contractors, Rosen reports. And some companies are hiring skilled foreign laborers, though the work visas can be difficult to get and unpopular with local residents.

No results are yet available to show the efficacy of such efforts, but the shortage is likely to be a problem for years to come: up to 2 million skilled jobs could go unfilled by 2025, according to a 2015 report from the Manufacturing Institute.

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