Confronting the U.S. Advanced Manufacturing Skills Gap

An article published this week in The American recounts the latest in research on whether a skills gap exists in American manufacturing today.

Comparing the conclusions of Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, Boston Consulting Group, and New York Times magazine reporter Adam Davidson, the piece shows conflicting opinions about whether the skills gap is huge (around 600,000 workers), smaller (between 80,000 – 100,000 workers), or nonexistent.

Putting aside those who reject the existence of the skills gap, the article points out that whether the skills gap today is perceived as large or small, “there is general consensus…that any skilled worker shortages today will be eclipsed by much larger challenges in the coming decade because of the pending wave of retirements.”

The article shifts to focus on the solution saying, “The discussion should not focus so much on whether the worker shortage is 80,000 or 600,000, but rather on identifying the root cause of the skills gap, large or small, and how to address it.”

In determining the best solution, the article juxtaposes the “fake skills gap” narrative of Davidson who insists the problem is manufacturers paying low wages with the experience of manufacturers in the field who currently foot the bill for training their employees.

“The solution to closing the skills gap,” the article says, “lies in between these two alternatives – employers’ willingness to pay competitive wages and assume some of the employee training costs, and job-seekers’ willingness to pay for an education and acquire the marketable skills in demand by manufacturers.”

So, for the first solution, the article highlights a number of examples of job training partnerships.

With those opportunities in mind, the article questions why students are not flocking to them.

Enter the second solution – Changing the way students and their families view manufacturing careers by addressing the field’s “image problem.”

The article concludes that questions about the size of the skills gap and how to fix it shine an important light on manufacturing issues and the importance of manufacturing to the future of the U.S. economy.

Read the full article here.

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