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Want a Job? Try Manufacturing

Medill Reports (IL) (01/11/12) Washam, Christie

More than 225,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector continued to go unfilled in the U.S. during November, a 2% decrease from October but a 6.7% increase from November 2010. This, while the nation faces heavy unemployment, prompts the question of why so many manufacturing jobs remain open.

A recent survey of ASA corporate partner listings found openings in hundreds of Illinois-based skilled manufacturing positions. Experts say there is a misconception that jobs in the industry have all been outsourced, when in reality those that have gone overseas are typically low-skilled work, not higher-tech jobs. Part of the issue is also a bad image. Many people still think of manufacturing as “dirty factory work,” says Mark Denzler, the vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, even though the industry has gone through tremendous changes in the past 30 years with new technology throughout the production line.

Ingrid Goncalves, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, adds that new industry jobs require more education and hands-on training, which can be hard to find because many high schools and community colleges tend to focus on broad liberal arts educations instead. Chicago Renaissance works with local manufacturers and communities to create educational programs for low-income residents to give them the skills necessary to fill the employment gap. Training takes time and with half of the skilled workers in the industry expected to retire in the next decade or so, creating the right educational programs now is more important than ever.