Re-surging Manufacturing Will Face Shortage of Skilled Workers

U.S. manufacturing sees shortage of skilled factory workers – The Washington Post.

This is a third and last of an education series.  First of all, I must clarify that there is no measurable manufacturing re-surgence in New Jersey but it appears to be happening in other states. Second, I must also emphasize that numerous employers prefer to entice experienced workers already employed to join their shops rather than train new, inexperienced workers – a very myopic policy in my opinion. Third comes the fact that automation has changed the nature of many manufacturing operations and the new employees must be computer literate and  must meet higher academic standards overall.

This is what has happened: As the manufacturing sector moved overseas, the actual industries were liquidated, and their old manual lathes and metal presses sold out. As labor and fuel costs entice some manufacturers to return to the United States, they equip their new shops with state of the art machinery which, more often than not, is computer controlled.

This is called is some disciplines “The Hamburg Factor” – from Hamburg when it was razed by allied bombing in WWII. When the city and its factories were rebuilt after the war, they installed state of the art machinery while the victors, in this case the United States and Britain, both of which had not seen such degree of destruction – the U.S. saw none – had their factories equipped with older, less efficient machinery. That effect was particularly damaging to Britain’s economy because it lacked the resources to modernize.

That effect will be playing here and the new industrial workers will have to know more. Dedicated schooling is needed.  And here enters the possibility of preparing some students – those less inclined to pursue an academic college-bound path – to follow this alternative.

It is unlikely that we will see any revival of manufacturing in New Jersey under the current political system. Some structural changes must happen first. But if elected and all the reforms I propose pass, there is a substantial likelihood that manufacturing will return to New Jersey. However that will only happen if the prospective employers see a readily available, qualified work force.

Thereof the importance of setting up a linkage between schools and current N.J. employers in order to create apprenticeships and enhance the scope and number of trade schools in the state.

Unfortunately, although I would like to expand and give more details on this plan, it is impossible because we can not foresee what the prevailing economic conditions will be in 2014 and 2015 . There could be a massive return of manufacturing to the U.S. or not. But the policy of New Jersey should be to plan ahead for an eventual return of significance and competing with other states for those businesses. To compete effectively, a number of conditions must be met and one very important is offering high quality workers.