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Report: Fears of Near-Term Skills Gap Are Exaggerated

Aug. 28, 2013
“Our research finds little evidence of a meaningful and persistent skills gap in most parts of the U.S., including in its most important manufacturing zones,” BCG states in the report.

The manufacturing skills gap is not a serious problem short-term and won’t prevent a resurgence in U.S. manufacturing over the next few years, according to a report released today by Boston Consulting Group.

The report, titled “The U.S. Skills Gap: Could It Threaten a Manufacturing Renaissance,” states that the skill shortages that manufacturers face are a result of supply-demand imbalances in specific jobs and locales.

Moreover, only seven states report “significant” or “severe” gaps, and six of those states are in the bottom quartile of U.S. manufacturing output, according to the report, which expands on research BCG released last October.

“Our research finds little evidence of a meaningful and persistent skills gap in most parts of the U.S., including in its most important manufacturing zones,” BCG states in the report. “The real problem is that companies have become too passive in recruiting and developing skilled workers at a time when the U.S. education system has moved away from a focus on manufacturing skills in order to put greater emphasis on other capabilities.”

Perception Gap Explained

Harold Sirkin, a senior partner with Boston Consulting Group and a co-author of the “U.S. Skills Gap” report, said there are several reasons for the disconnect in manufacturers’ perceptions about the skills gap.

“Quite often, the skilled workers are available, just not at a price employers are willing to pay, or companies do not bother to recruit at community colleges and vocational schools,” Sirkin said. “In other instances, experienced skilled workers with good academic training are available, sometimes in-house, but companies are unwilling to invest the time and money to train these workers to use new technologies or specific machines.”

Michael Zinser, a partner with BCG who leads the company’s manufacturing practice, said the prescription to the skills shortage involves companies, government units and schools putting their best foot forward and working collaboratively to find solutions.

“Investment by the public and private sectors in skills development needs to increase and accelerate,” Zinser said. “Companies can meet many of their needs on their own through more aggressive recruiting and training. These efforts must be supported by a nationwide program of science, technology, and engineering training to ensure that there will be sufficient skilled workers in key trades.”

The Boston Consulting Group’s report on the U.S. skills gap can be downloaded at

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