Friday, July 2, 2010

Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage

NY TIMES: Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage

This article is more confirmation (to me) that employment recovery will be a very slow process NOT because jobs will be scarce, but because there will be a major mis-match of skills-to-jobs available (see previous blog entry HERE).  Workers laid off 1 to 2 years ago will find most big and many small companies have changed because of the adoption of emerging technologies.  These longer-term unemployed, who are the fastest growing part of the unemployed, will find that their skills are obsolete or they have been replaced by technology.
""Factory owners have been adding jobs slowly but steadily since the beginning of the year, giving a lift to the fragile economic recovery. And because they laid off so many workers — more than two million since the end of 2007 — manufacturers now have a vast pool of people to choose from. Yet some of these employers complain that they cannot fill their opening.  Plenty of people are applying for the jobs. The problem, the companies say, is a mismatch between the kind of skilled workers needed and the ranks of the unemployed. ""
""Now they are looking to hire people who can operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency than was previously required of the typical assembly line worker. Makers of innovative products like advanced medical devices and wind turbines are among those growing quickly and looking to hire, and they too need higher skills. “That’s where you’re seeing the pain point,” said Baiju R. Shah, chief executive of BioEnterprise, a nonprofit group in Cleveland trying to turn the region into a center for medical innovation. “The people that are out of work just don’t match the types of jobs that are here, open and growing.” The increasing emphasis on more advanced skills raises policy questions about how to help low-skilled job seekers who are being turned away at the factory door and increasingly becoming the long-term unemployed.""
I hear almost NO talk from policy makers about addressing this problem (or am I just not listening?).  The only immediate policy is extending unemployment benefits well beyond the normal time (27 weeks up to 99 weeks).  More money for trade schools, community colleges, tax credits for individuals and businesses to get/give training, etc?  People must update skills or risk falling further behind.  What can we do to solve this? Any suggestions?

Addendum: I found this graph HERE and re-inforces the notion that long-term unemployment is more serious than in the past (track the RED line)...It would be interesting to explore how technology plays into this as a substitute for labor.

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