Skills Gap: We’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place

by | Aug 8, 2019

By John Sonnhalter, founder and rainmaker journeyman, Sonnhalter

Our workforce is aging faster than we can replace them, especially in the skilled labor category.

High schools used to push college as the only viable alternative to higher education. These graduates, with their liberal arts education, come into the workforce with no vocational skills. And individuals who lack the right skills or credentials, land in careers with little or no chance for meaningful advancement.

We’ve talked for years, now, about how many of our youth are missing opportunities in the workforce because they were thinking that they had to go to college. Let’s face it, college is not for everyone and for many who go to college, they end up in jobs that have nothing to do with their major.

In recent years, the media and the rest of the world have now started to pay attention to the lack of skilled labor to fill loads of trade jobs that, by the way, pay very well (sometimes better than four-year college degrees) and don’t have big student loans to pay back! And electrician, plumber or carpenters jobs can’t be outsourced overseas!

Here’s what Mike Rowe has to say about it:

I’m from a medium-sized Midwestern city and a recent headline in our local Sunday paper read, “Skills Gap Leaves Jobs Seekers Looking.” The gist of the article highlighted the challenges local companies are having finding qualified candidates to fill openings. The president of an Ohio Caterpillar® dealer that covers 80 counties can’t even find enough people to repair off-road equipment. Incidentally, starting salaries are between $60,000 and $70,000 a year.

The biggest issue for PMPA (Precision Machined Parts Association) members across the entire country is finding qualified people to run their state-of-the-art CNC machining centers, as discussed in this article.

Manufacturing currently reports 394,000 openings – about 3.1% of manufacturing employment.

What does this mean?

  • If you are unemployed: There is no reason to be. There are a record number of job openings all across the country (as can be seen in the chart above), especially in well-paying manufacturing careers, such as machining, welding and other skilled trades.
  • If you are employed already:Now is the time to increase your skills. The sheer number of openings means that opportunities for you to land a higher skilled job (promotion) with your current employer have never been higher. (And this is not even counting the wave of baby boomer retirements yet to come.)
  • If you are an employer:Training, training, training. It is a very competitive market to try to find new hires. It is likely that the best employees that you will have in five years are employees that you already have on your payroll. Train them to grow their capabilities, as well as your shop’s competitiveness.

We all have a responsibility to help our next generation grow and prosper and, clearly, a four-year degree isn’t the only option any more.

What can you do? Get involved with the guidance counselors at your local schools to promote opportunities. Hold open houses to show off the manufacturing facilities where computer and math skills have employees responsible for multi-million dollar machining centers. Post summer intern jobs for high school juniors and seniors to shadow your service professionals to see what their interest levels are.

If we don’t take action, we will be in bigger trouble than we already are, as far as being able to grow our businesses.

If you liked this post, you might want to check out Matt Sonnhalter’s “Marketing Minute” on the topic of the skills gap and the future of manufacturing:



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