October 9, 2012
While employers struggle to fill jobs in health care and trades such as welding, enrollment in the two-year, degree-awarding colleges that provide graduates for those fields rose only 18 percent from 2005 to 2010, trailing the 21 percent growth for four-year universities.
Even with trades offering competitive pay, skilled factory vacancies may soar fivefold to 3 million by 2015 amid a U.S. industry rebound and baby boomer retirements, according to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. That shortfall threatens to jeopardize both the U.S. recovery and corporate growth plans.
The manufacturing mismatch is part of a broader skills gap in an economy that has more than 3 million jobs open, even with an unemployment rate that ran at 8 percent or more for 43 straight months until the decline in September to 7.8 percent.
Forsyth Tech President Gary Green points out that recent history also creates more of a struggle for manufacturers than other industries to attract skilled workers. “The harder sell is in manufacturing,” Green said. “For a period of time there’s been this sense that American manufacturing has disappeared.”