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Minnesota Manufacturers Report Shortage of Skilled Workers

Nearly half of Minnesota manufacturers responding to a survey say they haven't filled positions because they lack qualified job candidates, according to a recent study by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The 2011 Minnesota Skills Gap Survey found that 45 percent of responding manufacturers in the state considered the shortage of skilled workers to be a moderate or serious problem.

The biggest shortages were found in skilled production (58 percent of those responding), followed by jobs for scientists and engineers (40 percent of respondents). Shortages were not as severe for jobs in low-skilled production, management and administration, and customer service.

"State manufacturers have openings, but Minnesotans who are looking for work often don't have the right skills to fill them," said DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips. "As we observe Minnesota Manufacturers Week, it's a good time to stress the importance of aligning manufacturers' needs with workforce training."

The Survey found that manufacturers in southwestern and northwestern Minnesota had the highest worker shortage in the state. Although the current shortage is slightly less than the shortage that existed when a similar survey was conducted in 2007, manufacturers said they expect the problem to become more severe over the next three years.

Manufacturing has been among the strongest-performing sectors in the state in the past year, adding 4,000 jobs year-over-year through September. A separate Job Vacancy Survey conducted by DEED in the second quarter of this year found that about 11 percent of the state's nearly 55,000 job openings were in manufacturing.

Officials say the lack of skilled manufacturing workers in key positions could affect economic growth if it prevents Minnesota companies from increasing production to meet customer needs.

The survey, which was conducted during the Spring 2011, used data collected from 511 manufacturers statewide, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent, with a level of confidence of 95 percent.

(Minnesota Future Work Interview: According to Jaime Nolan, Executive Director of the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association, Minnesota's manufacturing sector has a continuing need for qualified workers in many occupational areas. Some manufacturing companies have mentioned that they could double their workforce and increase production if they could only locate and hire qualified workers. The positions on the top of the list for Minnesota's manufacturers are computer numerical control (CNC) machine operators, quality technicians, milling machine operators, clean room technicians, programming operations, quality technicians and welders.

In addition to technical skills, Nolan mentioned that good communication, both written and verbal, critical thinking and math skills are important. Employers are also looking for people who have good work ethic and will show up to work on time. Problem solving, working with others and being part of a team are always also essential.

The Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association supports programs that will attract students to careers in manufacturing. Nolan mentioned a new program is being developed with the Minnesota Children's Museum. This program is entitled "How People Make Things" and will run this spring, providing an opportunity to involve children and parents in understanding the process of how things are made. Other programs supported by MPMA include Minnesota Supermileage, the Solar Boat Regatta, SkillsUSA Minnesota - Lego Robotics and Project Lead the Way.)

Source: Litchfield Independent Review, 10/25/11