Some say "skills gap" lends to US joblessness

With the national unemployment rate still stuck at 9.1 percent, you might think that any employer who is actually hiring would have no trouble finding recruits.

CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports that some are blaming a "skills gap" for leaving many good jobs unfilled.

Last year, Paul Raucher's company - EMT International, maker of high-tech digital printing presses - hired more than 100 people. Raucher said that anyone who professes a belied that domestic manufacturing is dead doesn't know what they're talking about.

However, as his Green Bay-based business continues to expand, Raucher is finding it harder and harder to fill the jobs.

"In order for us to grow, we have to have a steady influx of qualified people and there is a very small candidate pool out there," Raucher said.

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Even with Wisconsin unemployment nearing 8 percent, manufacturers say they are having a tough time attracting the right kind of worker. The few applicants they get often lack the basic math and reasoning skills required to do the job.

"They have a large number of candidates that can't give you half of one half, so if I send someone out to the floor and say cut that thing in half, they can't quite get there," Raucher said.

A nationwide industry survey found that more than half of manufacturers reported a shortage of skilled production workers.

Mark Weber, dean of the trades and engineering program at near-by North-Eastern Wisconsin Tech, said machinists, technicians, and operators are in high demand.

"We received job postings for nearly 600 of these types of positions last year, and while we graduated 80, it's still a huge gap," Weber said.

He's partnered with local businesses to build a high-tech classroom on wheels that makes stops at area high schools to demonstrate to the next generation that today's shop floor is not all grease and noise.

"It's a bright clean atmosphere. They are surrounded by computers. They've been very excited when they've looked at this," said Robert Nickel, principal of Sturgeon Bay High School.

Without a renewed commitment to this type of skilled job training, Paul Raucher believes the whole country stands to lose.

"If we lose our manufacturing base and let it go away either because we can't compete - which I think we have learned how to do that now - or we can't find the talent we need to keep our businesses going forward, we're in big trouble," Raucher said.

It's a stern warning for an economy already on the ropes.

  • Cynthia Bowers

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