In spite of shedding more than 3 million jobs since 2000, U.S. manufacturers are reporting a shortage of skilled labor that threatens their global competitiveness.
The Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers said in a Nov. 22 report that 80 percent of roughly 800 manufacturers who responded to its recent survey reported a shortage of qualified workers, and 90 percent reported a moderate to severe shortage of skilled production workers.
Overall manufacturing employment is down, dropping 210,000 jobs in the plastics industry alone from 2000-04. But there is still a shortage of skilled workers because global competition has increased job requirements, said Jerry Jasinowski, president of NAM's Manufacturing Institute.
Survey respondents identified having a ``high-performance'' workforce as the most important issue for business success in the next three years, outranking product innovation and being a low-cost producer, NAM said.
NAM's 2005 Skills Gap report said manufacturers, governments and educators need to refocus on education in science, math and technology, and companies should spend at least 3 percent of payroll on training current employees. It's the first time NAM has updated the report since 2001.
While some high-profile manufacturers like Delphi Corp. have attracted attention with proposals to slash workers' wages drastically, Jasinowski said the manufacturing sector overall is healthy, which contributes to worker shortages.
Manufacturers also should be more aggressive in recruiting and retaining employees, and place more emphasis on career development and mentoring, said Richard Kleinart, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP of New York and one of the authors of the report.