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Report: ‘Skills gap’ continues to be a problem in technical careers

More must be done to promote existing jobs

Roy Kern owns an equipment-distribution company in western Pennsylvania, and he sees the problem all the time.

Because not enough students are going into trade schools, Kern said, “We have a shortage of people with the needed skills, and we have a real need. It makes it difficult to service your customers, and difficult to expand.”

It is a problem addressed in a new report on the so-called “skills gap,” produced by The College of William and Mary on behalf of companies who distribute equipment for construction, agricultural, industrial and related industries.

“Highly technically skilled workers are in short supply in the wider manufacturing sector,” said the report, commissioned by the international trade association Associated Equipment Distributors.

“Equipment distributors across the nation report a high difficulty in finding qualified candidates to fill open technician positions,” and a lack of candidates with the needed technical skills is the reason, a report overview stated.

The full report, which is being released this Wednesday, will detail the ongoing effect of this “skills gap” on the construction and manufacturing industries.

AED is a 500-member trade association representing companies in the distribution, rental and support of equipment used in construction, agricultural, industrial and related applications.

Companies responding to the report cited “a lack of focus on technical education in the nation’s high schools,” which business owner Kern said is a shame.

“It’s a good career, versus majoring in history in college and then coming out and not finding a job,” Kern said, noting that salaries for entry-level jobs can start in the $30,000 to $40,000 range.

The trades need to be promoted more heavily, Kern and the report said.

“There has to be more done nationally to just promote the fact that there are good jobs out there in these areas,” Kern said. “There are a lot of folks out there looking for skills that really aren’t promoted.”

The report overview said national workforce policies need to be adjusted to emphasize bringing more “individuals entering the labor market broadly and those seeking technical careers specifically,” the overview added.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com.

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