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Modern manufacturing 101

The demand for skilled labor continues to expand — but the global workforce has not necessarily caught up.

Over the past few decades, American manufacturers have increasingly looked abroad for skilled workers to fill the supply gap. A McKinsey and Company report published in 2012, The world at work: Jobs, pay and skills for 3.5 billion people said:

In the next two decades, the world is likely to have too many workers without the skills to land full-time employment. In both developing and advanced economies, policy makers will need to find ways not only to produce high-skilled workers but also to create more jobs for those who aren’t as highly educated.

We reported last year on attempts by the corporate world to keep foreign-born, skilled labor in the U.S. This week, Need to Know reports from a school in Ohio where domestic workers are getting more expert training in the fields of technology and operation. This cultivation of homegrown talent is intended to thwart the growing competition from abroad and in turn, educational training opportunities for American workers are cropping up.

We hear much in the national discourse on education and advancement that a college degree is a necessary tool in achieving a high paying job. Chris Renn, Director of the Millstream Career Center in the town of Findlay, Ohio tells us that idea is actually a distortion of demand,

The biggest misconception out there in the general public is that you  have to have a four-year degree to get a good paying job, but industry tells us that’s the furthest thing from the truth, skilled labor is what they’re after.

At the Millstream Center, students can take classes in a whole host of subject areas, including welding, cosmetology, medical technology and construction skills technology. The Center serves over 700 hundred students from over fourteen high schools. Courses at the center are also career flexible; students can use their credits to move onto a four-year collegiate program, or they can enter the workforce immediately after course completion.

President Obama has also embraced the theory of more competitive educational offerings outside of the four year system. In 2012, his administration announced a plan to increase community college career training to fill technical positions. But budget restrictions are a factor. Bloomberg /BusinessWeek reported that a similar “$12-billion, 10-year-plan to support community colleges” was introduced in 2009, but Congress cut the funding by 80 percent to $2 billion.

On the state level, this lack of funding had a hazardous trickle-down affect, according to Bloomberg /BusinessWeek:

State budget cuts have fallen hard in California, where in the 2009-2010 academic year, 133,000 first-time students couldn’t get into any course as community colleges cut offerings, according to a statement from Jack Scott, California Community Colleges Chancellor.

The importance of institutions outside of national policy agendas, such as the Millstream Career Center, place a stopgap where public funding may not be able to provide the type of training necessary. Just this week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced an initiative,, to help create a more effective ‘knowledge’ economy here in the U.S. In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post, Zuckerberg discussed the need for immigration reform in the face of this growing skills gap. He writes:

In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are the talented people we educate and attract to our country. A knowledge economy can scale further, create better jobs and provide a higher quality of living for everyone in our nation.

The McKinsey study reiterates what Renn and Zuckerberg are already trying to put into motion, stating:

Businesses will also need to significantly step up their activities in shaping public education and training systems in order to build pipelines of workers with the right skills for the 21st-century global economy.

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    Need to Know travels to Ohio to assess how workers are faring after the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs over the past 35 years.
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    New CBO report echoes the findings of Need to Know's "A tale or four tax returns."
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      Certifiably employable
    Rick Karr recently visited Seattle to look at a program designed to give the unemployed the skills they need to find jobs in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.