As millions of Americans remain unemployed, U.S. manufacturers are having trouble filling hundreds of thousands of jobs requiring the skills to operate their high-tech machinery. Byron Pitts goes to factories to report on the problem and how employers are trying to solve it for a 60 Minutes report to be broadcast Sunday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
In Nevada, where the unemployment rate is the highest in the U.S., fastener maker Click Bond, Inc. wanted to expand by purchasing machinery from a Connecticut factory to use at its Nevada facilities. The company was forced to buy the entire factory because it could not find enough skilled labor in Nevada to run the machines. "We can't find enough students who are interested in pursuing these trades," says Click Bond COO Karl Hutter. "Because it seems hard?...Because it seems like you have to do math? I don't know," he says.
Click Bond's head of strategic initiatives, Ryan Costella, says the problem is even more basic. "I can't tell you how many people, even coming out of higher ed with degrees, who can't put a sentence together...If you can't do the resume properly to get the job, you can't come to work for us," he says. "We're in the business of making fasteners that hold systems together that protect people in the air when they are flying. We're in the business of perfection."
Costella says the problem is worsening as more baby boomers retire from the workforce and must be replaced. "We just hoped that the education system would produce what we need and I think the recession...a lot of things have taught us, 'No, you have to engage,'" he tells Pitts.
Click Bond and other manufacturers are battling the problem with a jobs training program at local community colleges. Students are taught to operate computerized machinery, read blueprints and learn trigonometry to make precise measurements - skills required on many of today's high-tech factory floors. For Ryan Vre Non, with a wife and child, the program was a savior.
Though he may start at Click Bond or some other manufacturer for about $12 per hour, skilled machine operators can make $60,000 a year. Vre Non's acceptance into the program was the start of a career that changed his outlook. "Very life changing. My whole day is going to be different now," he says. "I don't have to wake up and go, 'What am I going to do now?'"
For another student, it was a change from one career to another. Jamie Pacheco had been supporting his family as a commercial painter, but that work dried up in the recession. He looks forward to the challenge of a new career. "I like the fact that I have to put my brain to work to be able to apply myself to do this kind of stuff," he tells Pitts.