Smart Manufacturing

Perspective: Today’s manufacturing requires new job skills

By James Casto, for WV News

Mar 12, 2018

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For years, self-appointed experts have been telling us that manufacturing is dead. The problem is the corpse won’t stay buried.

Yes, this country has far fewer manufacturing jobs than in the past. But what those so willing to write off American manufacturing fail to realize is that manufacturing isn’t dying. It’s simply evolving.

Ironically, as the total number of U.S. manufacturing jobs continues to erode, many manufacturers desperately are seeking new workers to fill vacant jobs on their shop floors. The bottom line to this contradiction is that manufacturers today often demand a different set of skills than the factories of the past. It’s called the “skills gap” and it’s a problem that cries out for corrective action.

This talent shortage exists, in varying degree, all across the country. According to report by the Manhattan Institute, a think tank focused on economic growth, 88 percent of the U.S. manufacturers who responded to a survey said they have difficulty finding skilled workers.

Here in West Virginia, thousands of workers who once had good jobs mining coal or making steel have seen their jobs disappear. Times change, and West Virginia has to change as well. Many of tomorrow’s new jobs won’t be in coal or steel. They will be in computers, robotics, biotechnology, additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing). cybersecurity and other exciting fields undreamed of just a few short years ago.

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