Meeting The Challenge: Shortage Of Highly-Skilled And Technical Workers

Do you know someone like Kyle Hubers?
Officials of a company in Holland, Michigan wish that they could replicate workers like Kyle Hubers. Who is Kyle Hubers?

Workers Like Kyle Hubers Are In High Demand
Let’s get to know Kyle Hubers a little bit more. Hubers’ father fixed cars and did woodworking. Such skills were passed along to young Kyle who went to Ferris State University for his two-year degree in manufacturing. The young Hubers joined Metal Flow – the company in Holland, Michigan, full time in 2008 as an apprentice.

Hands-On Type Of Worker
Hubers obtained his journeyman toolmaker card by 2012. Today Hubers runs a precision auto parts machine that demands both trigonometry and tolerances to the thousandths of an inch.

Hubers describes himself as a hands-on type of person who at 28 years of age is paid $20 an hour with the potential to earn much more. Hubers is happy that he gets to go to work and build something every day. The skills that he possesses are a treasure for many employers in the precision processes industry.

Future Demand In Highly-Skilled Technical Workers
Unfortunately, jobs that are supposed to command good pay like die setters, toolmakers, and set-up technicians often go begging for employment. The Chairman of Metal Flow, Leslie Brown explains that companies like Metal Flow are engaged in highly technical activities.

Aside from the technical skills required of their workers, they need good collaborators and people who like to work with their hands. For their part, Metal Flow pushed for candidates to get a college education. But not everybody is inclined to take that route which eventually forced the company to drop a lot of their shop classes.

Michigan’s Labor Shortage
Metal Flow is not alone in this predicament. The labor shortage in Michigan is pegged by state officials to be at more than 75,000 workers. This number is based on the number of unfilled jobs that includes thousands of openings in:

  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Healthcare
  • Engineering

Coping With Current Labor Supply Demands By Industries
Michigan is in a race with other states in terms of adaptability in a changing employment landscape that is geared more towards higher and technical skills. An economic analyst, Bruce Weaver, explains the importance of having a sufficient labor supply for the industries and occupations that will fuel the economy.

Industries that provide wire EDM services, or process precision machine parts need highly skilled workers who have the technical expertise in this particular field. In reality, if the industries continue to expand, so should the skilled workforce in order to fill jobs needed by those industries.

Michigan Overcoming The Labor Shortage Challenge
For Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder singled out the shortage of skilled labor as a crucial challenge that the state has to overcome. Success in doing that will provide a strategic economic edge for the state.

The governor has addressed the problem through programs such as the Michigan Advanced Technician Training program where Michigan employers allow employees to rotate between work and obtaining an advanced associate’s degree, with employers paying the tuition for three years.

Employers Subsidizing Worker’s Educational Qualifications
But even with programs like these, where employers subsidize the workers’ educational qualifications for advancement, economists don’t see it to be effective in bridging the talent gap.

Michigan, in the process of climbing out of a deep recession that cost an estimated 800,000 jobs, is still in a situation where fewer workers with the right skills are vying for more jobs. This is despite the fact that jobs are growing and unemployment fell in August 2009 from 14.2% to 7.4%.

Technical Labor Shortage Is A National Issue
This scenario is duplicated in many states and in the national scene. Per data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4.5 million job openings in April which included 94,000 positions in construction, more than 600,000 in health care and the same number for food service, 272,000 in manufacturing, and over 800,000 in professional and business services.

Will the country have more Kyle Hubers in the future?

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4 thoughts on “Meeting The Challenge: Shortage Of Highly-Skilled And Technical Workers”

  1. American tech CEOs love to complain that they can’t find enough skilled workers, and they want the U.S. government to change its immigration policies to fix the problem. But it’s a problem that doesn’t exist. The real problem is not that there aren’t enough qualified workers to do tech jobs, but that tech companies simply don’t want to pay people enough money to do them. Makes sense, doesn’t it? You know the old saying: “money talks, and….

  2. To support the idea of a skilled-worker shortage, Hatch cited the high demand for H-1B visas. There were 172,500 petitions this year for the 85,000 visas available under the cap. American companies were thus unable to hire nearly 90,000 high-skilled workers they need to help grow their domestic businesses, develop innovative technologies, and compete with international competitors. In sketching out his views on tech legislation, A senator from Utah also talked about the need for patent litigation reform, updates to privacy protections, and incentives to businesses to encourage sharing of cyber-threat information.

  3. This demand for skilled labor is a theme or narrative I keep hearing, whether it is on the evening news or in news articles. In the post-recession economy, jobs that require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are in high demand compared to other jobs. Many metro areas, including the Tulsa area, are having to advertise for longer periods to fill these positions, which are also referred to as STEM jobs, because of the difficulty in finding qualified workers.

  4. The notion of a shortage of STEM workers in the US is demonstrably false. Data from the Census Bureau confirmed that a stunning 3 in 4 Americans with a STEM degree do not hold a job in a STEM field—that’s a pool of more than 11 million Americans with STEM qualifications who lack STEM employment. The US Census shows that of those college graduates who majored in Computers, Mathematics and Statistics (1,959,730), 50.81% did not hold a job in a STEM field. Of those who majored in Engineering (3,340,430), 50.54% did not hold a job in a STEM field[1].

    These are constantly growing numbers: Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, a top national expert on STEM labor markets, estimates that “U.S. colleges produce twice the number of STEM graduates annually as find jobs in those fields.”[2]

    There is, in fact, a glut of STEM-trained domestic talent. Clearly, they’re finding better opportunities elsewhere.

    We’ve been hearing about a shortage of STEM workers since, at least, Sputnik. But long-term labor shortages don’t exist in a democratic, free market society. It doesn’t make sense.

    [1] US Census Bureau, “Census Bureau Reports Majority of STEM College Graduates Do Not Work in STEM Occupations, Release Number: CB14-130”, July 10, 2014

    [2] Salzman, Hal, “STEM Grads Are at a Loss”, U.S. News, September 15, 2014

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