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Lack of skilled workers biggest factor hurting U.S. economy: poll

More leading manufacturing executives say the lack of skilled labor and management skills in the work force, rather...


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August 25, 2008 by Canadian Plastics

More leading manufacturing executives say the lack of skilled labor and management skills in the work force, rather than current oil prices or the weak U.S. dollar, is most hurting the growth of America’s economy.

In a new poll conducted by sponsors of the FABTECH International & AWS Welding Show, 27 per cent of the executives cited the lack of employee skills as the leading obstacle to growth. Ranked second was oil prices (cited by 20 per cent), followed by tax policies (11 per cent), weak U.S. dollar (10 per cent), the financial commitment in Iraq (9 per cent) and the credit crisis (7 per cent).

“In many respects, this finding is not surprising as we have heard for many months from leaders in the metal forming, fabricating and welding industries that their biggest challenge today is finding skilled workers, especially young people, who can tackle the increasingly sophisticated tasks required in manufacturing today,” said John Catalano, show manager at Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), one of the event’s sponsors. “In fact, one keynote speech at the upcoming exposition by renowned inventor Dean Kamen will address this very issue, and several seminars will explore the topic.”

The executives also were asked to name the two best ways to attract greater numbers of young people to manufacturing careers. Fifty-eight per cent said competitive wages. More parental and teacher encouragement ranked second at 27 per cent, followed by offering more relevant science and math programs in high school and college (23 per cent) and greater use of computer and high tech skills (22 per cent).

“Those last three findings underscore the need for our educational system to step up and emphasize curriculum that can better prepare students for positions available today in manufacturing,” added Catalano.

Product innovation and production efficiencies are priorities for manufacturers, too, according to the executives polled. Some 22 per cent said developing more innovative products and 21 per cent cited improving production efficiencies as the most important action companies must take to better compete in the global marketplace. Also ranked highly were offering more cost-competitive products and responding more effectively to overseas competition, each named by 15 per cent of the respondents.

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