Schenck's Manufacturing Skills Gap Survey: Qualified workers wanted

Posted on Jan 23, 2013 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
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A recent study conducted by Schenck SC found that businesses in manufacturing are malnourished, starving for qualified workers.

“There are perceptions of high school and post high school people that manufacturing is undesirable for a variety of reasons,” Dan Koszalinski, wrote in an e-mail statement. Koszalinski is a CPA and CMA at Schenck SC and leader of Schenck’s manufacturing team. “Dirtiness and low pay are distorted perceptions out there.”

This issue was addressed in Schenck SC’s 2012 Manufacturing Skills Gap Survey Report, which highlighted findings about Wisconsin’s lack of skilled-laborers.

“It is primarily a skills shortage. Certain trades, such as welders and machine operators, are experiencing a shortage of people,” Koszalinski said.

In the survey, Schenck interviewed 126 manufacturers. The companies consisted of a wide range of specified businesses, including metal fabrication plants, foundries, medical supply companies and computer equipment manufacturers.

When the companies were asked how much their sales growth and company expansion opportunities suffered because of the labor shortage, almost 30 percent responded with “significantly.” Over half responded with “somewhat” and more than 11 percent said “not at all.” More than 6 percent said, “More than any other challenge.”

“The demand is high,” explained Koszalinski. “Jobs remain open for long periods of time. Employers scale back growth plans due to lack of qualified personnel.”

The survey found that more than half of the surveyed companies believed that programs should be further implemented in both high schools and technical schools. Almost 35 percent said that they were already participating.

Koszalinski identified contributors to the labor gap included fewer numbers of people entering training programs, employer needs not being met by training programs and the failure to link job openings with job seekers. However, he presented several ideas on how to inspire growth and strengthen Wisconsin’s industrial-backbone:

-Improving the distorted image of manufacturing as a dirty, low-pay industry. 

-Recruiting in parallel industries and training to specific job requirements.

-Implementing faster and more thorough access of job openings to job seekers.

-Helping the general public to understand the economic impact of manufacturing.

-Continuing to align education with industry.

“There are several collaborations with industry, education and government at both the high school and tech school level,” Koszalinski said. “These seem to be the sustaining remedy.”

— Sean Lyons