TheChicago Tribune ran a story on the front page of the business section the day I was considering what I should write for this space. The article addressed an exceedingly frustrating problem, especially because it appears to be counter-intuitive.

There’s a shortage of skilled workers to fill hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, yet the number of unemployed U.S. workers desperate for jobs remains enormous. Why should it be so difficult to find someone to work the skill-dependent jobs sitting vacant? Among all the people out there who want nothing more than to bring home a regular paycheck, there is indeed a shortage of those with the right skills for producing products made in America.

Manufacturing appears to be mostly on the upswing, as the economy seems to have turned a corner. Many factory owners are ready to add to their production ranks as orders have increased. There are lots of talented men and women but they don’t meet the specific requirements needed to fill the open slots. Older workers have retired and younger workers haven’t been trained to follow in their footsteps. Manufacturing jobs have been out of favor for many years as new job seekers eschewed manufacturing career paths after noting years of layoffs and outsourcing, seeing the rust belt rusting, and viewing many of the occupations as too dirty to do.

To help the situation, some manufacturers have developed in-house training programs while others have partnered with local schools, community colleges and manufacturing associations to at least get students thinking about careers in manufacturing. States have been asked to boost education in science, technology, engineering and math. A student who can get a good handle on that coursework is a good candidate for a manufacturing job. And what once were very dirty jobs have cleaned up as they’ve gone high tech.

The report “Boiling Point? The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing” from Delloit and the Manufacturing Institute spells out the problems, expectations and possible solutions. If your plant is in need of elusive well-skilled employees, you and your manager might want to read the report and get some ideas on how to move forward. You can download the free report at If you set out to create a program either in-house or through an organization or school, let me know. You can reach me at

Anne Armel, Group Publisher,