Understanding the Skills Gap Dilemma


Lately I have spent a lot time thinking about the skills gap in the moldmaking industry. I have also talked to a lot of moldmakers about some ideas to solve this problem (I will write more about these ideas in later weeks). There is a strong consensus that the moldmaking industry offers good and interesting jobs at attractive wages. Many believe that a motivated newcomer to the industry could make a tidy, upper-middle class type of salary after just five or six years of working in the industry. A much higher salary than many other jobs like construction, and even substantially higher than many jobs that require a four-year college degree, such as teaching.

So why are there so many good jobs not being filled? And why aren’t young people more interested in a job in manufacturing? These are complicated questions, so I will not even begin to try to answer them completely. But I did see a chart (on an economics blog of all places) that may go a long way toward explaining the problem. Here is the link to the chart, and I encourage all of you to give it a look.

Basically this chart shows two things. One is that manufacturing jobs are high-paying (this chart puts them on a line of $70,000+ per year), and that is the good news. But the point of the chart is that the US manufacturing sector has suffered by far the largest decline in the number of jobs since 2001. Over 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past decade.  According to this chart, no other sector has lost even 1 million.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there have been 250,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs on average every month of 2013. That is not 250,000 new jobs each month, but rather 250,000 jobs that are going unfilled. And I am sure that there are openings in a number of moldmaking shops that are contributing to that 250,000 each month. But that is not very many jobs in the big picture, especially when compared with a loss of 5 million. Put another way, if the manufacturing sector actually created 250,000 new jobs every month, it would take 20 years to get back the 5 million lost in the past ten.

So while the jobs in moldmaking are high-paying, and while finding qualified young people is crucial to the future vitality and viability of the shops trying to fill them and the industry at large, there are not a large number of these jobs compared to other sectors. Be honest, how many new moldmakers are needed each year to keep the industry fully staffed. As I mentioned above, I will continue to write about ideas to solve the skills gap, but if we are going to solve the problem we must first understand it fully. This chart shines some new light on what we are up against.