WASHINGTON – OEM Fabricators of Woodville, Wis., announced the other day that it is expanding its operations in the Badger State and adding 100 manufacturing jobs. Normally, such an announcement would be relegated to the back pages. These days, any U.S. manufacturer who announces expansion plans attracts media coverage.
The company’s new facility will house OEM Micro, a division that serves the medical, electronics and aerospace markets. The manufacturer already employs 500 workers and has annual sales of $75 million.
Now the question is how long it will take a metal bender like OEM Fabricators to find 100 qualified employees – metal workers able to operate numerical control machines that have made U.S. manufacturing more efficient while at the same time contributing to the elimination an estimated 6 million factory floor jobs since 2000.
The U.S. response to the wrenching changes in manufacturing over the last decade has so far been slow and largely ineffective. The reality is that technology advances mean many manufacturing jobs are gone for good. That means we must gain a clearer understanding of the impact of globalization while sorting through the competing claims about a “skills gap,” retraining and how technology is transforming advanced manufacturing.
Only then will we be able to again compete.
In the final analysis, our manufacturing problems come down to the poor math and science skills for U.S. high school graduates. As “Planet Money” columnist Adam Davidson observed recently, “The so-called skills gap is really a gap in education, and that affects all of us.”
We recommend Davidson’s column, "Skills Don't Pay the Bills," which also answers the question: Who makes more, a skilled welder of a McDonald’s shift manager?
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