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Industries Complain of Skilled-Worker Shortage

The college-for-all push is leaving some employers complaining that there aren't enough qualified high school graduates with technical skills to hire for manufacturing jobs.

Minnesota industries are having to turn away customers because of a lack of skilled workers in welding, machining, welders, and fabricating, according to a story on Minnesota Public Radio. And some are blaming high schools for the shortage for narrowing the curriculum to focus on college readiness over career training.

In Minnesota, 13 percent of all jobs are in manufacturing, and the average pay is about $56,000 a year. Yet, a manufacturing-skills gap persists, in part, because basic industrial-technology skills aren't being taught enough in high schools, some employers say. Nationally, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers predicts by 2015, there could be a shortfall of 3 million skilled factory workers.

Minnesota is one of several states that has received federal grant money to focus on advanced manufacturing education. The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $500 million to nearly 300 technical colleges and universities across the country to expand innovative training programs in manufacturing.

Today, manufacturing workers often need more advanced technical skills in robotics and automation to qualify for jobs. An increasing number of partnerships among high schools, community colleges, and employers are aimed to equip high school graduates who don't go on to a four-year college with marketable skills for high-demand jobs.

Last month, the Association for Career and Technical Education met in Washington to promote support for career training in high school, in part to equip students for these type of jobs that employers say they can't fill.

In his State of the Union Address in February, President Obama called on high schools to work with employers to train students for high-tech careers of the future. He highlighted P-TECH, an early-college high school in Brooklyn, N.Y. that has partnered with IBM to train students for skills jobs that they can transition into after graduation.

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