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Study: 92% of manufacturers can’t find skilled workers

October 6, 2018

Two high school students work on soldering during the 2017 Women in Manufacturing Day at Westmoreland County Community College's Advanced Technology Center, New Stanton.

An overwhelming majority of manufacturing companies in southwestern Pennsylvania report having difficulty finding skilled workers, according to a new study by the Pittsburgh-based Catalyst Connection.

The 2018 Employment Demand Study, funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, was conducted in May and June and attracted 111 respondents -- 41 percent of which were in the metal fabricating and machinery sectors.

Of the respondents, 92 percent said they have a skilled worker shortage that is having an impact on their business, with 60 percent saying the impact is “significant or critical.”

Although most companies are experiencing sales growth, only two-thirds are seeing employment growth or profitability growth, the study said.

Other findings are as follows:81 percent ranked basic employability skills (attendance, timeliness and work ethic) as the most critical skill deficiency.53 percent ranked basic technical training (degree, industry certification and vocational training) and basic mechanical skills as a significant skill deficiency.Companies hired between 1,600-3,000 workers in 2017, but they spent an inordinate amount of time screening candidates -- almost half are screening 5-10 candidates before hiring.Respondents, who employ 93,113 people, have between 1,070-2,300 current open positions -- one-third are entry level and don’t require a degree.The hardest-to-fill open positions are CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine operators, entry-level production, fabricator, industrial maintenance, machinist and welder.Top three reasons for not filling entry-level positions are: lack of qualified applicants, lack of applicants in general and the inability to pass a drug screening.Most respondents expect to do “significant” hiring over the next five years because of anticipated business growth, retirements, turnover and investments in new technology.

The goals of the Employment Demand Study were to determine if there is a need for more workforce development, improvements in employability skills and changes in perception toward manufacturing careers.

Catalyst Connection said it will use the study findings to, among other things, better prepare entry-level workers for jobs in manufacturing and introduce advanced manufacturing careers in middle school and high school.

Westmoreland County’s new comprehensive plan identifies worker preparedness as one of the most pressing economic priorities for the region.

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