Manufacturers Address Labor Shortage and 'Skills Gap'

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineApril 30, 2018
by TJ Jerke and Sean Shields


The U.S. has a big problem when it comes to the manufacturing labor, and component manufacturers (CMs) are certainly not immune to it.

U.S. manufacturers took to Capitol Hill last week to address the countries’ need to fill 426,000 manufacturing jobs, and find new ways to address the “skills gap” that is threatening the manufacturing industry. 

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) says that unless something is done to reverse this trend, that number of unfilled jobs is projected to rise to two million over a ten-year period.

During last week’s Congressional hearing, Fiat Chrysler’s Head of Human Resources, Barb Pilarski, said the current high school educational system needs to better expose students to manufacturing trades. Glenn Johnson, Manufacturing Workforce Development Leader at BASF Corporation, pointed to the root causes of the problem, highlighting how the country has allowed the definition of “best” job to skip over manufacturing and primarily mean a while-collar, office job.

One glaring policy topic that needs to be addressed and will make a different in addressing manufacturing labor woes is comprehensive immigration reform.

Last year, we wrote about how the labor shortage underscores the need for immigration reform. Now that the issue is even more relevant as it puts major constraints on the economy, we will echo what has already been said and ask Congress to develop and pass immigration reform efforts that benefits manufacturers.

SBCA’s position on this topic illustrates that expanding merit-based state and federal guest-worker programs and implementing reasonable, “path to citizenship” options will be of tremendous benefit to the structural building industry and U.S. manufacturing as a whole.

So what can CMs do?

CMs need to contact their elected officials and tell them how the skills gap is impacting their businesses, and tell them they need to comprehensively address the root cause.

CMs also need to know their labor market, and use tools provided by SBCA to help. SBCA’s WorkForce Development website offers both job seekers the opportunity to view open positions and learn about the industry, as well as gives employers various resources and the opportunity to post available positions.

If the workforce shortage is an issue you have a passion for, please consider joining us for SBCA’s 2018 Fly-in to Washington, D.C.  If travel isn’t possible, consider hosing a plant tour with your members of Congress. If you want help in arranging a plant tour, let us know and we’d love to help.