National Review has a great piece about how American manufacturers are having trouble filling jobs, even in this rocky economy. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs out that that are unfilled. There is plenty of blame to go around from politicians and educators who tell every child he or she must go to college, to a culture that tells kids these jobs are beneath them.
The manufacturing sector has long had trouble finding skilled applicants for its jobs. Around 48 percent of manufacturing companies are looking to hire, according to the most recent report from ThomasNet, a company that helps connect producers and suppliers. But 67 percent of manufacturing companies see a moderate to severe shortage of skilled workers, and last year, as many as 600,000 jobs went unfilled, according to a report from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.
This mismatch embodies the best and worst of American culture. On the one hand, American manufacturers have bested their international competition, becoming even more efficient after their recent struggles. On the other, there’s been a cultural shift that denigrates the value of manufacturing work, instead pushing young people into ever more impractical fields of study.
These job perks are partly caused by demand. Older manufacturing workers are retiring fast, and the work has become more high-tech, says Thomas Holdsworth, a spokesman for SkillsUSA, an organization that provides training for high school and college students. SkillsUSA works closely with the manufacturing sector, connecting it with prospective workers.
“We hear about skill shortage and skill gap,” Holdsworth explained. “Manufacturers say . . . ‘We have a shortage of workers, a shortage of people coming into our profession.’”
The skilled-worker shortage is an education problem. High schools have cut their shop classes, and students are pushed to attain at least a four-year college degree, no matter the major, says Linda Rigano, spokesperson for ThomasNet.
In high schools, “there’s been such a focus on — and this is going to sound terrible — kids going to school,” she said. “Not every kid is meant to go to college.” Meanwhile, manufacturing companies “are paying six figures. You’ve got all these kids who are coming out of college, and they can’t find a job. It’s heartbreaking.”
Young people are told that a four-year college degree is a minimal requirement for career success, but the numbers simply don’t bear this out.
Be sure to read the whole thing. Of course college is essential to some careers, but how many young Americans are finishing college with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and worthless degrees? We may not be able to change the politicians or even the schools, but parents can certainly change how they talk to their kids when discussing their future plans.