Why America’s Skills Gap Matters to YOU


The skills gap matters to you, whether you realize it yet or not.

The “gap” is very real here, in our state, and around the country. It’s the year 2013, and the truth is: Finding skilled talent is hard.

Rosie the Riveter is dead. For many people outside the manufacturing world today, it’s just not sexy and interesting anymore to work in a factory, make parts, to build a career in manufacturing. And especially so for the demographic that matters — the youth who are about to lead our country into the next few decades.

The stats are still abundantly clear that bits and bytes (not atoms) define the zeitgeist of this era. The majority of 18 to 24 year olds still prefer “professional” careers in law, accounting, education, and computer programming. Major blogs on the web cover every possible angle on the new iOS 7, the latest gadgets and memes. America’s youth still don’t see the allure in physically making the objects that fill our everyday world. Manufacturing isn’t a national movement like the WWII era; it’s still widely perceived as a dirty, uncool business best left for other people.

So, what happens when the skills gap grows wider? When manufacturing professionals (average age = 56) retire in 10 years?  Here’s a sampling of what can happen:

  • Higher youth unemployment. There are only so many professional jobs to go around, and when there is an oversupply of skills and low demand, the unemployment rate will rise. Just ask Europe, where manufacturing activity shrank for 11 straight months.
  • There will be more overseas manufacturing. With no toolmakers and machinists to make parts in the US, workers in China will gladly step up. Here’s an alarming infographic on the proportion of goods that China makes today. As the skills gap grows, so will US imports. Almost everything you buy will be FedEx’d from China.
  • Technical schools will begin to close. Apprenticeship programs will fade away. Educators will pursue other fields for income, instead of teach vocational classes. Without youth interested in manufacturing careers, why teach skilled trades to empty classrooms?
  • More vacant factories. More towns will lose manufacturers as tax-payers. There will be more towns like Detroit and Reading, PA – staring at fiscal budget that bleed red.

All of this definitely matters for manufacturers like Specialty Design. We have run our contract manufacturing business since 1967. We are proud to have a talented and dedicated team on board today — a group of experienced and passionate manufacturing professionals. Yet we’ve certainly experienced the ebbs and flows of the manufacturing climate first hand over that tenure. We see the country’s skills gap as an almost inevitable economic certainty, and we’re doing everything we can to prepare.

The skills gap IS very real. The incoming talent is clearly growing thin. For us, it’s important to consistently train our younger employees on a wide range of manufacturing methods. It’s important that we educate incoming, young inventors on the importance of keeping their production in the US. It’s all a work in progress, but the spirit of Rosie the Riveter is very much alive in here.

America's Skills Gap

 Credit to WorkBoots.com for this infographic.

About Justin Knabb

Justin Knabb is VP of Operations at Specialty Design and Manufacturing, a family-run, US manufacturer of custom home building products as well as custom industrial machinery. Justin is a fan of microbreweries, traveling, Apple products, and Philly cheesesteaks. He can be reached at 1-610-779-1357 or here.