According to the New York Times, factory jobs are returning but the skill level of those in the jobs pool do not match the skill level needed by those seeking employees for factories. Often pools of workers simply do not produce a match because American workers are unable to perform the skills needed to do the job.
BEDFORD, Ohio — Factory owners have been adding jobs slowly but steadily since the beginning of the year, giving a lift to the fragile economic recovery. And because they laid off so many workers — more than two million since the end of 2007 — manufacturers now have a vast pool of people to choose from.
Yet some of these employers complain that they cannot fill their openings.
Plenty of people are applying for the jobs. The problem, the companies say, is a mismatch between the kind of skilled workers needed and the ranks of the unemployed.
Economists expect that Friday’s government employment report will show that manufacturers continued adding jobs last month, although the overall picture is likely to be bleak. With the government dismissing Census workers, more jobs might have been cut than added in June.
And concerns are growing that the recovery could be teetering, with some fresh signs of softer demand this week. A central index of consumer confidence dropped sharply in June, while auto sales declined from the previous month.
Pending home sales plunged by 30 percent in May from April as tax credits for home buyers expired. Fretting that global growth is slowing, investors have driven stock indexes in the United States down to their levels of last October, for losses as great as 8 percent for 2010.
As unlikely as it would seem against this backdrop, manufacturers who want to expand find that hiring is not always easy. During the recession, domestic manufacturers appear to have accelerated the long-term move toward greater automation, laying off more of their lowest-skilled workers and replacing them with cheaper labor abroad.
Now they are looking to hire people who can operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency than was previously required of the typical assembly line worker.
Makers of innovative products like advanced medical devices and wind turbines are among those growing quickly and looking to hire, and they too need higher skills.
“That’s where you’re seeing the pain point,” said Baiju R. Shah, chief executive of BioEnterprise, a nonprofit group in Cleveland trying to turn the region into a center for medical innovation. “The people that are out of work just don’t match the types of jobs that are here, open and growing.”
The increasing emphasis on more advanced skills raises policy questions about how to help low-skilled job seekers who are being turned away at the factory door and increasingly becoming the long-term unemployed. This week, the Senate reconsidered but declined to extend unemployment benefits, after earlier extensions raised the maximum to 99 weeks.
So, who do we blame? Bush? Obama? the schools? the employers? Seriously, what can be done to retrain? Can factories get tax credits for training these new employees to fit their needs? Corporate giants like IBM have always done a great deal towards training their own people. Do we just pull in workers from overseas while Americans, millions of them, go unemployed? How about partnerships with local schools to re-educate workers for current jobs. Obviously what was needed 20 years ago is not needed today.
Reading this article reminded me of warning that were issued some 20 years ago. We were told that workers needed to be retrofitted to do different math, different computer skills and those not making the transition would lose their jobs to overseas. Have the chickens perhaps come hope to roost at the wrong time? Perhaps our stimulus packages should contain much more directed at retrofitting and retraining the American worker. The wages in discussed in this article were fairly low level wages. No one is getting rich here. What do we do?