Manufacturers Are Looking in the Wrong Places for Skilled Labor

Matt Shelly
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As manufacturing jobs become more complex, manufacturers report difficulties in finding skilled labor. However, recent research suggests that manufacturers are looking in the wrong places for their labor force. If manufacturers consider hiring through vocational schools and other educational institutions when manufacturing jobs become available, they might be able to find more of the skilled workers they seek.

The manufacturing skills gap suggests that there are not enough qualified, skilled workers to fill all the manufacturing jobs available. Modern manufacturing requires many skills, including proficiency in chemistry, mathematics, electrical wiring and computer coding. Skilled workers are an essential part of the manufacturing process, and if manufacturing companies are unable to find them or fill manufacturing jobs, growth and productivity may slow down.

Research suggests that manufacturers are leaving a group of qualified job candidates out of the picture. According to a recent survey by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and reported in the Boston Globe, approximately 70 percent of manufacturers surveyed never attempted to recruit workers from vocational schools, community colleges or similar educational institutions. Similarly, more than 80 percent of manufacturers surveyed did not use local workforce investment boards during their recruitment process.

Part of the reason why manufacturing companies might hesitate to recruit or hire recent graduates might have to do with their desire to hire candidates with previous on-the-job experience. It could also have to do with the cost involved in training new workers. As the Boston Globe article notes, only 79 percent of manufacturing companies have the resources to train a new worker with basic skills.

If manufacturers began reaching out to reputable institutions with highly skilled graduates, they would increase their access to potentially qualified job candidates. Recent graduates would also have better job opportunities and chances to get the on-the-job experience that can help move them up the career ladder. Vocational colleges and technical schools that are already training future graduates to fill manufacturing jobs could learn more about the skills that are most valuable manufacturers in various industries.

Many manufacturers are already turning to colleges and trade schools to find skilled workers. However, other manufacturers, such as those surveyed by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, are not. If manufacturing jobs remain unfilled, manufacturers will have no choice but to begin recruiting candidates from all potential resources, including college classrooms.

If manufacturers want to close the manufacturing skills gap, they need to consider all qualified job candidates, including recent graduates. Although these graduates might need on-the-job training to successfully perform manufacturing jobs, they might also have a lot to contribute to manufacturing companies based on their education and skill level. If manufacturers continue to look in the wrong places for skilled labor, they are likely to remain understaffed.

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