Find a job with Journal-News: Skills gap not just manufacturing issue

While the nationally-recognized Manufacturing Day held every year at the beginning of October tries to bring attention to that industry’s skills gap, area business leaders from other sectors say manufacturers aren’t alone in confronting shortages of skilled workers.

An improving economy coupled with baby boomer generation retirements are expected to create 3.5 million manufacturing-related job openings over the next decade nationwide, according to results of a joint study by The Manufacturing Institute, an industry-associated nonprofit, and Deloitte, a firm providing financial and business consulting services. However, the widening gap of workers missing the mechanical and social skills to do the jobs means 2 million of those positions are expected to go unfilled, according to the organizations’ research.

Meanwhile, the construction trade group Associated Builders and Contractors is working with legislators in Ohio and nationwide to get October also designated as Careers in Construction Month, according to the Ohio Valley chapter’s website, www.ovabc.org. Why? The group cites the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections for 1.6 million new construction job openings to be created by 2022.

Yet, 80 percent of Associated Builders and Contractors members say there is a shortage of skilled labor, and about 25 percent of current construction workers are expected to retire in the next 10 years, according to the Ohio Valley association, which represents about 350 Cincinnati- and Dayton-area contractors.

“Our message to anyone who’s listening is there’s a great career in the construction industry, one that will in three to four years pay someone an average of $60,000 to $80,000 a year with no debt,” said John Morris, president of the Ohio Valley chapter.

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Ohio’s construction industry employment has yet to recover the losses of the 2007-2009 economic downturn. Companies employed about 186,900 construction workers as of August in Ohio compared to 223,900 in Aug. 2007, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services statistics.

Workers that left the business found jobs elsewhere and have not been available to meet the needs of the area’s uptick in construction activity, Morris said.

Today’s job market is different now than it was five years ago, said Adam Jones, administrator of the Workforce Investment Board of Butler, Clermont and Warren Counties, which is a three-county government agency that decides employment program priorities, the amount of training dollars residents are eligible for, and requests contract proposals for carrying out services such as operating OhioMeansJobs centers.

“The employers have to be willing to put in time and resources in order to hone the talent,” Jones said. “If the employers are going to take the risk, the job seekers have to be able to make that commitment.”

Across all industries, employers have over 200,000 job openings listed statewide now on the OhioMeansJobs.com website, which accumulates job postings made directly on its site and other websites. That’s even as an estimated 265,000 Ohioans remain unemployed, itself a more than decade-long low. Due to a shrunken labor force, the total number of working Ohioans has yet to recover pre-recessional levels, according to state government estimates.

“What a job seeker needs to be successful in today’s market is a basic work ethic. If you can commit to coming to work every day on time, it doesn’t matter if you have the specific work set required to do the job because employers understand they need to and are willing to provide on-the-job training,” Jones said.

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