"We don't need rocket scientists. We need people with basic technical skills who know how to use tools, work with their hands and make something happen," said Ron Kadlubowski, director of machining technology at Karl Schmidt Unisia.The article also notes that there's a downside to downsizing.
The company has grown from 250 employees in 1985 to more than 900 now. Currently, Kadlubowski said, it has dozens of openings for skilled machine operators.
"We have so many openings now, it's amazing," he said. "If you come in with a basic skill set, and you don't have some rotten work history, you are going to get hired. And other companies in the area are hiring people left and right. The hard part is finding someone who looks encouraging."
One problem in addressing the skills crisis is a lack of basic math skills, manufacturers say.
Many job applicants can't answer the question "what is one half of one half," [EMT International president Paul] Rauscher said, and they can't measure something to a fraction of an inch.
"How are you going to get a workforce together when people lack those basic skills? It's pretty pathetic," he said.
A manufacturer looking to fill 134 entry-level jobs, paying $15 per hour, received 850 applications but hired only 17 of the applicants, according to Jim Golembeski, executive director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, in Green Bay.
Many lacked a high school diploma or could not pass basic reading, math or dexterity tests. Others flunked the drug and alcohol test.
Companies that have invested millions of dollars in technology won't tolerate employees with drug and alcohol problems messing up the equipment as a result of their addictions. "And they aren't going to let you touch one of those machines if you don't know what you are doing," Golembeski said.
Workers get "kicked to the curb" whenever a company has a bad fiscal quarter, said Michael Bolton, director of United Steelworkers of America District 2, which includes southeastern Wisconsin.The failure of the common schools to teach mathematics or the habits of the middle class might also have an effect.
"The only loyalty is to quarterly returns. We used to sit down with companies and talk with them about their five-year and 10-year plans. Now, we are lucky if we can get them to talk about a three-month plan," Bolton said.
Small and midsize manufacturers, which are predominantly privately owned, have always maintained better discipline in holding onto their workers in tough times, said Tim Sullivan, chairman of the state Council on Workforce Investment and former president and chief executive of Bucyrus International Inc.
Historically, publicly traded manufacturers have reduced the rank-and-file workforce at the very hint of a softening in markets, Sullivan said.
"I believe this practice has been curtailed to a great extent, based on the current shortage in manufacturing skills," he said. "Unfortunately, historical perception has had a significant impact on career choices as well as high school and tech-school curriculums."