Losing Business

It’s one thing to lose business to a competitor because your price is too high or you can’t deliver a product to meet their production needs. But increasingly, some manufacturers are losing business because they don’t have the skilled workers to make enough of their product.

Manufacturing grabs the headlines when layoffs are announced, especially when it is among the Big Three auto makers. Fewer headlines are generated when new auto manufacturing plants open in places like Texas and Alabama, giving work to thousands of local people. And the press rarely reports on the workforce needs of small and medium manufacturers despite the fact that they employ 8 million men and women and represent more than 60 percent of total U.S. manufacturing employment. Click here for more information on the small and medium manufacturing segment.

So we tip our hats to Barbara Hagenbaugh with USA Today for a very thoughtful article about manufacturers who are turning business away because they don’t have the workers to turn it out in sufficient quantity. Read about Mike Bunner in Emaus, PA who can’t find plastic welders even though he’s willing to train them in the craft. He says his business could expand by 20 to 30 percent if he had the right staffing.

As the reporter notes,

The shortage of skilled workers is the result of a number of factors. One of the biggest is that manufacturing in the USA is becoming more high-tech and skill-based as the more repetitive, less-skilled work is moving abroad. Such jobs require greater expertise.

Plus, baby boomers with years of experience are retiring. And younger people are bypassing factory jobs, viewing them as repetitive, dirty and without much opportunity, a view that hasn’t been helped by all the factory closings and headlines about manufacturing jobs moving to China. These factors have combined to create a serious worker shortage with no end in sight.

And then read in the article about Richard Smith a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chillicothe, Ohio who graduates this month from a nine-month welding program. He has already received three job offers, “paying $16 to $19 an hour, or more than three times the federal minimum wage. The companies are also paying medical benefits, offering 401(k) plans and paying for additional training.” It is no surpsie that with offers like this, Smith said, “It really took me off my feet.”

He’s a lucky guy with a good career path and a high-paying job ahead of him. That’s the message many communities are getting out these days as they see that their local manufacturers can grow and thrive if they have the right workforce mix. Down the road, it’s those communities that are organized with the right kind of technical schools and graduates that will attract manufacturing. Read the full USA Today article by clicking here.

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