Despite the prominence of the skills-gap debate, a new paper co-written by a University of Illinois expert in labor economics and workforce policy finds that the demand for higher-level skills in U.S. manufacturing jobs is generally modest.
Three-quarters of U.S. manufacturing plants show no sign of hiring difficulties for open positions, says new research from Andrew Weaver, a professor of labor and employment relations at Illinois.
"Not a week goes by without someone declaring that a huge skills gap exists in the U.S. workforce," he said. "A lot of ink has been spilled on this topic, but it's frequently without evidence. The popular sentiment encourages people to think that employers have high skill demands, but U.S. workers just aren't up to snuff, and that's why manufacturing work is being outsourced overseas."
However, the results show that U.S. manufacturers are generally able to hire the skilled workers they seek.
"We estimate an upper bound of job vacancies due to a potential skills gap of 16 to 25 percent of manufacturing establishments - a finding that sharply contrasts with other surveys that have reported figures of more than 60-70 percent," Weaver said.