Some manufacturing executives are complaining that they can’t find applicants with the right skills for the available jobs. According to John Engler, President of the National Association of Manufacturers, “A full 36 percent of our members have said they have employment positions unfilled right now because they cannot find qualified workers. This confirms what our members have been telling us: that the people applying for manufacturing jobs today simply do not have the math, science and technological aptitude they need to work in modern manufacturing.”
And what does this “math, science, and technological aptitude” actually involve? “I am not saying you have to know complex algebra to get a job on the plant floor,” Engler continues, “but you do need fundamental math, science and communication skills,” he said. “You can’t be illiterate and communicate with other members on a manufacturing team.” He worries about what will happen in the near future, as many older workers retire.
Phyllis Eisen, vice president of the Manufacturing Institute, says that parents and teachers are partly to blame for the shortage of skilled workers, in that they have promoted four-year college degrees as the key to success, even if those degrees are not well connected with current employment trends.
I also think that many people have a mistaken idea of a “factory” as a place inhabited entirely by human robots whose work repertoire is limited to the repetitive tightening of bolts. This has never been true, and it is even less true now that automation has changed the mix of knowledge workers and craft workers vs those doing unskilled and semiskilled jobs. I wonder how many members of the K-12 educational establishment have even the vagues idea of what goes on in a manufacturing plant and what this might imply for their students.
And is it unreasonable to ask that schools should be teaching “fundamental math, science and communication skills” to all of their students…even those who are not on a “college track?”
(hat tip: Cold Spring Shops)