Three million open jobs in U.S., but who's qualified?

Millions of jobs are waiting to be filled, but employers say they can't find qualified workers because of "the skills gap"

The following script is from "Three Million Open Jobs" which aired on Nov. 11, 2012. Byron Pitts is the correspondent. David Schneider, producer.

The balance of power in Washington didn't change this week as President Obama and most members of Congress kept their jobs. They'll go back to work and face an unemployment problem that also hasn't changed very much. Every month since January 2009, more than 20 million Americans have been either out of work or underemployed. Yet despite that staggering number, there are more than three million job openings in the U.S. Just in manufacturing, there are as many as 500,000 jobs that aren't being filled because employers say they can't find qualified workers.

It's called "the skills gap." How could that be, we wondered, at a time like this with so many people out of work? No place is the question more pressing than in Nevada. The state with the highest unemployment rate in the country. A place where there are jobs waiting to be filled.

Karl Hutter: Yeah, we hear way too much about the United States manufacturing, we don't manufacture anything anymore. Not true. Not true.

Byron Pitts: Sure, it's Mexico, it's in China--

Karl Hutter: Yeah, yeah, that all went to China, that all went to Mexico. Not true, whatsoever.

Karl Hutter is the new chief operating officer of Click Bond in Carson City, Nev., a company his parents started in 1969.

Karl Hutter: We're still technically a small business, but we're growing quickly.

Byron Pitts: So, you're hiring?

Karl Hutter: We are hiring. We're hiring and we need to find good people. And that's really what the challenge is these days.

Three hundred and twenty-five people work at Click Bond, making fasteners that hold cables, panels and pretty much everything else inside today's planes, ships and trains. Their customers include the Defense Department. The F-35 has 30,000 Click Bond fasteners.

The workhorses in this factory may look old, but they're computer controlled machines that make precision parts, accurate to a thousandth of an inch; the thickness of a piece of paper. Click Bond needs employees who can program the computers, operate the machines, fix them and then check to make sure the results are up to spec.

Ryan Costella: If you look at the real significant human achievements in this country a lot of them have to do with manufacturing or making something.

Ryan Costella is head of Strategic Initiatives at Click Bond. That's another way of saying he's looking ahead to both opportunities and problems facing the company.

Byron Pitts: Sure. So the skill gap, is it across the board? Is it at all levels? Or is it the entry level?

Ryan Costella: I would honestly say it's probably an entry level problem. It's those basic skill sets. Show up on time, you know, read, write, do math, problem solve. I can't tell you how many people even coming out of higher ed with degrees who can't put a sentence together without a major grammatical error. It's a problem. If you can't do the resume properly to get the job, you can't come work for us. We're in the business of making fasteners that hold systems together that protect people in the air when they're flying. We're in the business of perfection. .

Costella says Click Bond ran into trouble when it expanded production and went to buy these machines from a factory in Watertown, Conn. The company didn't have enough skilled labor back home in Nevada to run them, so it bought the entire factory just to get the qualified employees and kept the plant running in Connecticut.

[Conn. worker: You just have to be careful that you don't hit the side.]

Nationwide, manufacturers say the lack of skilled workers is the reason for hundreds of thousands of unfilled jobs; a number Ryan Costella says is about to get bigger.

Ryan Costella: You have a massive wave of baby boomers who are leaving the workforce very soon.

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