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As was widely reported this week, President Obama has endorsed the creation of a national manufacturing skills certification system, which, ultimately, should help manufacturers across all industries.

 

The system backed by Obama is a plan by the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute to train and certify some 500,000 community college students with skills considered critical to manufacturing operations. The Manufacturing Institute will work with the president’s Skills for America’s Future program to implement the system, which will provide certification through competency-based education and training.

 

As an article in IndustryWeek reported, the president pointed out that many manufacturers have skilled positions going unfilled. The mystery to me is how this continues to occur while U.S. joblessness remains high. The president himself describes the situation as “a mismatch we can close.” So, the expanded initiatives are aimed at resolving that mismatch and helping workers gain skills that will “make America more competitive in the global economy,” Obama says.

 

This comes as good news, I believe, since it’s widely documented that manufacturers have difficulty filling those skill-critical positions. For example, ManpowerGroup last month released the results of its sixth annual Talent Shortage Survey. Those results show that one in three employers globally report difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent. That’s the highest percentage since before the recession in 2007.

 

It’s worth noting that the U.S. isn’t the only country experiencing these problems. Indeed, numerous countries suffer the same setback. Here in the U.S., however, the number of employers struggling to fill roles has jumped 38 percentage points to the largest percentage in the history of the survey—52 percent of the companies surveyed. According to ManpowerGroup’s survey, which included almost 40,000 employers across 39 countries and territories, the hardest jobs to fill are technicians, sales representatives, engineers and skilled-trade workers.

 

Companies’ inability to fill mission-critical roles because of a lack of skills and experience should serve as a wake-up call for businesses, education, governments and individuals, says Jeffrey A. Joerres, ManpowerGroup Chairman and CEO. It’s imperative that employers collaborate with these parties to address the supply-and-demand conundrum in the labor market and create long-term solutions to developing the talent they need, he says.

 

Joerres’ mention of businesses, education and governments reminds me of a Fortune article earlier this spring reporting that the shortage of skilled American workers has drawn concern from leaders in the public and private sectors--with the result that a group of executives from major companies appealed directly to state governors, urging them to set higher standards for student proficiency in science and mathematics. The group of executives, called Change the Equation, (citing figures from national educational assessments) notes that only one fifth of today’s 8th graders are proficient or advanced in math.

 

The CEO-driven initiative was launched last fall as part of the Obama administration’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign in response to forecasts that the U.S. will be short as many as 3 million high-skills workers by 2018, according to a Georgetown University report issued last year. Two thirds of those jobs will require at least some post-secondary education, says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in the Fortune article.

 

Considering many states’ on-going budget crises that results in slashed spending on education and continued teacher layoffs, I have to wonder if any states will take action. Even so, it’s encouraging that the situation is recognized by so many, and that action is being taken on several fronts.

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