Editorial: America needs to rebuild its workforce

As if the United States needed another reminder it has not been educating tomorrow's workforce today.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch story, as well as the most recent "60 Minutes" broadcast, focused on the country's lack of skilled manufacturing workers. Despite an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent and more than 20 million Americans either out of work or underemployed every month since January 2009, there are more than 3 million job openings in the United States. As many as 500,000 jobs aren't being filled in manufacturing alone.

Boding even worse for the struggling economy is the fact that a recent Manufacturing Institute survey found 82 percent of respondents likely would add payroll if there were actually qualified candidates in the pipeline for skilled production jobs. Almost as many said that pipeline probably will remain dry for the foreseeable future.

Ryan Costella works for Nevada's Click Bond, which makes the precision fasteners that hold everything inside planes, ships and trains. He says the hiring dearth is "an entry-level problem. It's those basic skill sets. Show up on time, you know, read, write, do math, problem solve. I can't tell you how many people even coming out of higher ed with degrees can't put a sentence together without a major grammatical error. It's a problem. If you can't do the resume properly to get the job, you can't come work for us. We're in the business of making fasteners that hold systems together that protect people in the air when they're flying. We're in the business of perfection."

Besides an applicant's own inability or desire to develop basic skills, some of the burden can be placed on the K-12 system, which emphasizes college track over trades, and in some cases has dropped shop class as an elective. Some can be placed on trade schools, which have not kept pace with the ever-advancing technological demands. And some can be placed on manufacturers, which used to train entry-level applicants but now expect taxpayer-subsidized workforce training.

The America of our parents and grandparents built a global reputation on the amazing things it built. If it is to remain competitive in that marketplace, it needs to quickly join together to rebuild its workforce.

— Albuquerque Journal

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