Six steps to solve unemployment

The US Census Bureau tells us that as of Monday, November 4, 2013 the official US population will reach 317 million people. The labor force is reckoned by the Department of Labor to be about 155.5 million people, of whom 7.2% are currently unemployed. If a healthy economy has 5% unemployment, this means we have an unemployment problem of 2.2% of the workforce, or about 3.4 million people who need jobs.

There is a different employment problem in US manufacturing. Estimates of the exact number vary, but between .5 and .7 million skilled manufacturing jobs in the US are going unfilled for lack of qualified people. This means that about 20% of today’s unemployment problem could be solved if more people learned to perform modern manufacturing jobs. The jobs are there, waiting for you.

These jobs are unfilled for a lot of reasons: A lot of baby boomers are retiring right now, and they are taking a lot of skills away with them. Meanwhile new manufacturing technologies are exploding, demanding employees with ever more technical skill. Cultural and educational fashions have created a mismatch between the output of our school systems and the needs of 21st century manufacturing. Manufacturing companies themselves, who have historically provided a great deal of technical training, have been cutting apprenticeship programs and other technical training since the 1970s to inflate short term profit.

J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, is senior technical editor of Plant Services. He was formerly consulting manager for Strategic Asset Management International (SAMI), where he focused on project management and training for manufacturing, maintenance and reliability engineering. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing and maintenance experience in the automotive, defense, consumer products and process manufacturing industries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in management from Central Michigan University. He can be reached at or check out his .

There are many more factors, but whatever the causes have been, the solution is the same. People who need technical education must find it and learn to work in today’s manufacturing environment. This is good news because it means you have the power now to solve the unemployment problem in your home. Here’s how:

  1. It all starts with a high school diploma. If you don’t have one, get your GED. A call to any high school will get you the right phone number for GED training, and the GED is usually free. You’ll have to do the work, but then you’ll also have the knowledge to get a better job and/or go on for more training. This is the first step to any manufacturing career.
  2. Second, find job openings in your area, or wherever you would like to live. Check a local paper; visit your local unemployment office, and Google “help wanted in (your town or county).” If you need assistance, the staff at any public library can help you get started finding the information you need, usually on their computers. You can also check the Plant Services Job Board.
  3. If you are turned down for a job due to lack of training, ask the person who interviewed you, “Where do I go to get the training for job openings at this company?” If there is a real need at the company, a sincere request of this kind will probably get you more help than you imagine.
  4. Find the training. This is not difficult. Google “technical training in (your town or county).” You’ll find pages of training opportunities in many fields. Again, library people can help.
  5. Get funding. If the cost of training is a problem, Google “funds for technical training in (your town or county).” Also, ask the people who offer training. They are often the best source of information about where to find financial aid. This is partly because the school doesn’t get paid to train you unless you get funded.
  6. Do the schoolwork. To be a hero in your home you don’t have to go to war and get shot at, but you do have to work. We all do.

In manufacturing you work to make things that get sold. This is where the money to pay you comes from. Once you start learning how to do the work, many schools can help with part time job opportunities that can help pay for the rest of your schooling.

The steps are simple, but they are not necessarily easy. You need to know enough to do a job, so you work to learn while you learn to work. The more you know, the better the jobs you can get. As time goes on, the learning gets easier, the work gets more interesting, and the pay gets better. Also, if you find another job hunt in your future, and most of us do, you face it as a skilled worker with education credentials to help get you in the door.
America works when you do. That’s why so much of the world wants to live and work here. 

Readers, if you don’t need this coaching, please pass it along to someone who does. You know who needs it, and his or her job is waiting.

Read Stanton McGroarty's monthly column, Strategic Maintenance.