More Skills Needed

Mark Thoma notes that this piece from yesterday’s FT fits with his belief that “education is a key factor in our ability to compete in the emerging global marketplace.” I tend to agree.

US manufacturing ‘undermined by skills gap’

More than three quarters of US manufacturers say that a scarcity of skilled workers is holding back their business, according to a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers. The survey of 800 manufacturers showed that 68 per cent were experiencing a moderate skills shortage while 13 per cent said they were suffering a severe shortage.

The complaint comes despite heavy job loses in the sector in recent years and seems ironic in the light of the announcement by General Motors that it plans to cut payroll by 30,000. Since 1998 around 3.4m factory jobs have been lost in the US.

Paul Ashworth, an analyst at Capital Economics, said the apparent paradox reflected the changing nature of US manufacturing. “As global competition is intensifying, US manufacturers are having to migrate higher up the value added chain in order to survive,” he says. “The US is losing a lot of moderate or low skilled jobs but finding it hard to satisfy the growing demand for highly skilled technical workers.”

The National Association of Manufacturers says the problem has been heightened by the exodus of baby boomers from the workforce, a decline in the number of students chosing technical or engineering degrees.