National Association of Manufacturers

How to train U.S. workers back into manufacturing jobs

June 29, 2011: 10:35 AM ET

Despite gloomy job prospects, many American manufacturers are on the prowl for top talent, but say that not enough workers are trained for the tasks.

By Elizabeth G. Olson, contributor

President Obama speaks on the economy following a tour of Cree, Inc, a lighting manufacturer in Durham, N.C. on June 13

FORTUNE -- When machine shops were in almost every American high school, students could learn the mechanical basics that could prepare them for an entry-level manufacturing job.

Applicants today, manufacturers complain, often do not have such elementary shop skills, let alone the computer skills and other knowledge required for more complicated and sophisticated manufacturing processes. And, some acknowledge, manufacturing needs to overcome its down-market image as menial and monotonous work.

"It's not drudgery," says Collie Hutter, co-founder of Click Bond, Inc., a Carson City, Nev., company which makes industrial fasteners for airplanes and other transportation markets. "People sometimes think that way about manufacturing.

"But we have 125 computers on our floor. We have complex machines. Workers have to know how to enter data, how to do the math, how to measure and also to write and communicate, among other things."

Otherwise, Hutter and other manufacturer employers say that jobs go begging, despite the country's current 9.1% unemployment rate.

Whether that's due to inadequate education and training, outsourcing jobs overseas, or corporate failure to create U.S.-based jobs is vigorously debated. There are as many culprits as there are economic commentators and, given the roller-coaster economy, there is no one solution that will create masses of jobs. More

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