Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Manufacturing Jobs are Not Completely Gone

Although the US has lost millions of manufacturing jobs to countries like China, there are still opportunities for employment in the manufacturing sector. In a study on the issue, the U.S. Labor department reported that too few young people consider manufacturing careers and often are unaware of the skills needed in the more advanced environments. As more and more baby boomers retire, the problem is expected to accelerate.

Here are how some states, schools and companies are collaborating to address the labor shortfall directly through vocational training.

State of Wisconsin
Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle announces tax credits for manufacturing businesses. Under the "Next Generation Manufacturing" program, existing tax credit programs will be consolidated into an $85 million tax credit program to assist companies that are creating jobs and training workers to develop the Wisconsin labor pool. The goal of the program is to create 5,000 new jobs and to train 4,000 workers for existing jobs in Wisconsin.

Northwest-Shoals Community College in Alabama
Enrollment at Northwest-Shoals Community College in Alabama has increased 3 percent over last year's figures, to 3,250 students. College president, Humphrey Lee, attributes the increase to three factors: distance education and the welding and machine tool technology programs where enrollment is up 50 percent. A Canadian company, North Alabama Corporation, that builds railcars is a major employer in the region and needs welders and machinists.

Hamill Manufacturing
In a 2007 survey from the National Association of Manufacturers, 20% of small to medium manufactures cited retaining or training employees as their primary concern. One manufacturer feeling the effects is precision parts maker Hamill Manufacturing, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This maker of high end parts for military helicopters and nuclear submarines is currently has machines without operators. In a Reuters story, John Dalrymple, president of Hamill, says the factory working under capacity is not the result of a shortage of business, in fact he has more orders than the company can fill. Instead the machines have no operators because of a shortage of skilled workers.

Hamill Manufacturing invests an average of $120,000 per apprentice to try and train the qualified workforce they need.

Keep in mind that there is still general decline in the low skilled manufacturing sector in the US. Job seekers who are considering careers in the sector, must do the needed research to find the pockets of growth and specific niche areas where job skills are in demand.

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