Dreaming, Doing in Indiana

By December 11, 2006Manufacturing Institute

Several of us had a nice visit last week with Andrew Penca, the recently appointed Director of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, about the state’s support for Dream It. Do It., the NAM-sponsored but locally driven program to encourage young people to pursue careers in manufacturing and to give them the training tools to do so.

As the most manufacturing-intensive state in the country, Indiana is intently interested in encouraging a new generation of highly skilled employees. The Indianapolis Star covered the issues in-depth recently, a solid story picked up elsewhere this weekend.

Because younger workers have been spooked by layoffs in manufacturing, or because they have an image of factories as dark, dirty dungeons, there aren’t enough new workers to replace the baby boomers just starting to retire.

That looming problem isn’t isolated to manufacturing or to Indiana. But a shortage of Hoosiers in manufacturing could have a huge impact on the state economy. That’s because high-paying manufacturing jobs account for about 19 percent of all state jobs, making Indiana the most manufacturing-intensive state. Indirectly, manufacturing supports more than half of all Hoosier livelihoods, according to industry sponsored studies.

The skills shortage is getting more and more news coverage all the time, because it’s a serious problem for the U.S. economy. For lots of economies, actually, including Britain’s:

“It’s the economy, stupid” is one of the blunter sayings from American politics.

Well, now it needs updating. If you don’t have a skilled workforce, a strong economy will become unsustainable. And, let’s face facts – the UK’s skills are looking ramshackle.

Other countries have much better skill levels; India and China, in particular, are fast overtaking us.

That was the blunt message from this week’s long-awaited UK skills audit, the Leitch Report, which was fully endorsed by the chancellor in his pre-budget report.

So it seems the new political message should be: “It’s skills, stupid.”

Thorough, interesting story from the BBC.