With unemployment still hovering around 10-percent, a more positive report released last week says that employers will be seeking skilled workers in Pennsylvania's manufacturing sector through the next decade.

Manufacturing contributes $75.5 billion to the state's economy annually, accounting for about 14 percent of the gross product. Last week's report – "Critical Shortages of Precision Machining and Industrial Maintenance Occupations in Pennsylvania's Manufacturing Sector" – was issued by the Department of Labor & Industry and is available online at www.paworkforce.state.pa.us [1].

The main message of the report is that the state is facing a critical shortage of skilled workers in the manufacturing industry.

There are 72,000 individuals working in precision machining and industrial maintenance occupations in Pennsylvania and the PA Center for Advanced Manufacturing Careers estimates that employers will need between 15,000 and 17,000 additional skilled workers over the next 10 years. The center which compiled the data is part of the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board, the governor's main private-sector policy advisor on building a strong workforce development system aligned with state education and economic development goals.

Dr. Robert Garraty, Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development, says that modern manufacturing has come a long way from the "oil-soaked machine shops" of the past and that today's employers need a workforce with the skills and specialized training necessary to operate and maintain "increasingly complex, computer-controlled manufacturing systems." He emphasized the need for private-public partnerships that encourage development and delivery of training opportunities tailored to manufacturers' workforce needs.

"This report lays out some of the challenges that Pennsylvania manufacturers will face over the next 10 years," Garraty said. "It should be used to help educators, policymakers and employers address those challenges, and to help the state avert an employment crisis in this crucial industry sector."

The report provides some optimism for those with the initiative to hone their skills in order to land a job in the state's manufacturing sector. As we head into the new year, it does offer at least a ray of hope in an otherwise discouraging employment picture.

Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [2]