America's Business to Business Journal for Industry

America��s Most Wanted: Skilled Workers


Consider a manufacturing career amid media reports of shuttered factories, job losses and the worst economy since the Depression Although certainly counter-intuitive, the answer to that question is a resounding yes! Despite the shaky economy, scores of American manufacturers are reporting a dire need for skilled labor.

Industry surveys reinforce this claim. According to the 2009 Manpower Talent Shortage Survey, among the most difficult jobs to fill in North America are those of the skilled manual trades, with electricians, carpenters/joiners and welders as the most in-demand employees.

In addition, an October 2009 report issued by the Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte and Oracle, cites that among companies involved in skilled production (whose employees are machinists, craft workers and technicians), 51 percent report shortages and see increased shortages ahead.

Although the United States has lost huge numbers of manufacturing jobs to countries like China, there still are well paying job opportunities for skilled workers in the manufacturing sector here. As more and more baby boomers retire, the problem is only expected to accelerate.


The looming skilled-worker shortage is an unwelcome threat to the nation's manufacturing base that needs to be addressed at multiple levels, from better educating the next generation of factory workers to improving the public's image of plant work.

Manufacturing's Image Problem

There's no doubt that manufacturing has an image problem – especially among today's youth. A national poll of teenagers underscored in a major way teens' disinterest in manufacturing and working with their hands, and how the educational system ignored this arena as a viable career option.

The poll, sponsored by Nuts Bolts & Thingamajigs (NBT), the Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA), showed a majority of teens – 52 percent – have little or no interest in a manufacturing career and another 21 percent are ambivalent. When asked why, a whopping 61 percent said they seek a professional career, far surpassing other issues such as pay (17 percent), career growth (15 percent) and physical work (14 percent).

A major reason that kids don't pursue careers in the skilled trades is the simple fact they are not introduced to them anymore. In the past, high school students could take a shop class and get a feel for working with tools, but today most don't have that chance.


Also, factory conditions have changed dramatically – yet many of today's youth are unaware. The old stereotypes of backbreaking labor and grimy working conditions persist, yet it's far from the truth. Ask people today what they think of manufacturing and most will probably recite a perception of a dirty, dangerous place that requires little thinking or skill from its workers and offers minimal opportunity for personal growth or career advancement.

It's absolutely critical to change this mindset and show young people how manufacturers have modernized, embraced new technologies and involved workers in management and product development.

A Nation of ‘Non-Tinkerers'

American adults, too, may be a root cause of disinterest among American youth to fill jobs in the industrial arena. Another NBT poll revealed that America has become a nation of "non-tinkerers," with 60 percent of adults avoiding major household repairs, opting to hire a handyman, enlist their spouse, ask a relative or contact a property manager. And, 57 percent state they have average or below


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