Pennsylvania labor shortage weighs on manufacturers' hiring

08.28.2012


Pennsylvania labor shortage weighs on manufacturers' hiring
Pennsylvania labor shortage weighs on manufacturers' hiring

Pennsylvania's manufacturing industry is suffering from a lack of skilled workers that is leaving a number of positions unfilled, The Scranton Times Tribune reports.

According to a state-commissioned report from the Governor's Manufacturing Advisory Council, the most concerning issue affecting the state's manufacturing industry is a lack of education. Without the right training programs in place, job seekers looking for manufacturing jobs are falling short of companies' expectations, as most of the available positions require advanced skill sets related to computers and other high-tech programs.

Manufacturing staffing fell by more than 96,000 jobs in Pennsylvania between June 2007 and June 2010, but in the two following years, began to trend back up, with 4,700 reclaimed manufacturing jobs. However, these positions are not the run-of-the-mill assembly jobs nearly 100,000 people held before the recession. Instead, production workers must use high-level math and technology skills.

"They are dealing with high-tech machinery," said Eric Esoda, executive director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center. "As that bar goes up, the funnel goes down."

Esoda added that Pennsylvania manufacturers are in constant need of welders, diesel mechanics and technicians that have the wherewithal to work comfortably with computerized- and numerical-controlled machines.

However, not everyone is on board with the notion that the state's ailing manufacturing industry is due to a gap between technology and workers' skills.

"If there were skill shortages, we would see lots of increases in wages," observed Mark Price, an economist for the Keystone Research Center. "We are not seeing sudden spikes in earnings. We are seeing more givebacks and concessions. Wages are declining."

The report also urged the state to implement education programs that would change the image of Pennsylvania manufacturing to better reflect the innovations that have taken place in the sector. According to Esoda, many people in Pennsylvania still see the manufacturing sector as a dirty and inhospitable work environment, which he says is simply "not the case."

Throughout the U.S., manufacturing employment is beginning to grow after a weak spring. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, employment growth rose to a reading of 14.2 in August - the highest level in five months.