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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Florida Manufacturers Battle with the Skills Gap

Of the 100 manufacturers in Florida counties Manatee and Sarasota, 56 told employee training agency CareerEdge Funders Collaborative that they recognize “an existing skills gap of three years or longer,” the Bradenton Herald reports.

The skills gap problem has caused manufacturers to pare down expansion plans and production schedules, while the unemployed in Manatee and Sarasota counties who are available for work cannot fill open positions because of their lack of training. CareerEdge held a Sept. 27 conference to convey their findings on the problem, based on a survey of local manufacturers.

The survey revealed that a majority of manufacturers in the area believe the skills gap is a serious problem. Almost 80 percent of respondents attributed it to students not choosing manufacturing for their careers, while 75 percent blamed the lack of workers who are skilled at using high technology.

“We’re talking about a lot of jobs,” CareerEdge Executive Director Mireya Eavey told the Herald. “We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of marketing to do. This is a call to manufacturers that we understand their challenge. Now we need their commitment.”

The Herald notes that more than 500 manufacturers are located in Manatee and Sarasota employing about 12,800 workers. Over 28,000 area residents are unemployed.

“Part of it is the industry has done a bad job of marketing itself as a career path, with parents discouraging their children to seek [manufacturing] opportunities,” Jennifer Behrens Schmidt, president of Atlantic Mold and Machining Corp., explained to the Herald. “Most of the workers in the field are getting old, they’re close to retirement, and [there are] no replacements lined up.”

In an attempt to address this image problem, several organizations are teaming up to promote Manufacturing Day, a national event where manufacturers will open their facility doors to students, veterans and other members of the public to give them firsthand looks at how manufacturing is important to the American economy and future. The event occurs next Friday, Oct. 5.

Brian Lane


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