Enterprise Minnesota Magazine - June 2012
HELPING MANUFACTURERS GROW PROFITABLY
Qualified Labor Gap Gains National Attention
Testifying before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, Enterprise Minnesota President and CEO Bob Kill brings the manufacturing sector’s qualified worker shortage into the national spotlight.
In April, Enterprise Minnesota President and CEO Bob Kill told a key Senate panel that manufacturing’s chronic shortage of qualified workers poses a significant and escalating challenge despite high national unemployment rates.
Kill traveled to Washington, D.C. to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion, chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Kill’s testimony used data collected from this year’s State of Manufacturing® poll to illustrate that anxiety over attracting qualified workers has more than doubled in the past year, with 31 percent of Minnesota manufacturing executives saying it is a concern, up from 14 percent in 2011. Nearly six out of 10 (58 percent) manufacturing executives also say it is a challenge to attract qualified workers to their companies, up from 45 percent in 2011.
“Rapidly changing technology... widens the gap between the sector’s existing workers and the skills that are needed in today’s manufacturing environments,” Kill told Senators.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the skills mismatch left 4,925 jobs unfilled in Minnesota’s manufacturing sector, accounting for 9.8 percent of the state’s job vacancies, he said. Nationally, there are approximately 600,000 vacant positions in manufacturing.
Kill said that Enterprise Minnesota has attempted to help narrow the skills gap in Minnesota by offering discounted services to manufacturers through the state-funded Growth Acceleration Program (GAP). GAP provides up to $1 of state money for every $3 a company invests. Participating companies have realized a $30 return for every $1 spent on GAP, and have created or retained a collective 1,700 jobs in Minnesota.
Kill concluded that attracting more students to industry careers will depend on the effectiveness of using public/private partnerships in exposing them to career opportunities in manufacturing.
“Public/private collaborations of manufacturers—with the community leaders, with the educators, and with the parents—will lead to us creating the next generation of manufacturers,” Kill said in an interview held minutes after delivering his testimony. “The visibility Sen. Klobuchar is bringing to that topic is very important.”
To learn more about the Growth Acceleration Program, visit http://www.enterpriseminnesota.org/resources/growthacceleration-program.html
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