A recent Reuters piece helps emphasize a challenge facing the manufacturing industry, and and the economy as a whole: technological advances in manufacturing (and in the products being manufactured) in the US have increasingly meant that manufacturing labor no longer consists of menial tasks for day laborers. Instead, factory workers have to be highly trained technicians and engineers, able to respond to changes in demand and factory conditions and actively pursue solutions. From Reuters:

A survey by ManpowerGroup found that a record 52 percent of U.S. employers have difficulty filling critical positions within their organizations — up from 14 percent in 2010.

Owens said his company [Siemens], which counts manufacturing behemoths Caterpillar and Motorola among its clients, has at any given time about 200 open positions .

“We are pro-actively working to fill them. It can take 90 to a hundred days, probably, to fill them,” he told Reuters. “We are creating jobs. We just don’t necessarily have the right people to fill them.”

On average, companies usually take seven weeks to fill job openings.

MISMATCH OF SKILLS AND JOBS

Most of the jobs hard to fill are for skilled trades, Internet technology, engineers, sales representatives and machine operators.

Yet American colleges are producing fewer math and science graduates as students favor social sciences, whose workload is perceived to be manageable, leading to a skills mismatch.

Math, engineering, technology and computer science students accounted for about 11.1 percent of college graduates in 1980, according to government data. That share dropped to about 8.9 percent in 2009.

If global manufacturing continues to rebound from the recent economic downturn, this trend could lead to higher wages in manufacturing. However, it also underlines the need for the workforce to be highly educated, both at primary and secondary levels, and through continuing education and on-the-job training.

Eagle Technologies Group is an industry leader in the design and installation of Factory Automation Systems worldwide.