Not so bad: Manufacturing skills gap is local, not national

Never mind what you've heard about how the U.S. educational system fails to produce skills needed for the manufacturing industry. A new report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) says the skills gap in U.S. manufacturing today is more limited than many people think. In a nutshell, the problem is not so much that we lack machinists and welders. It is that we lack machinists and welders in five of the 50 largest manufacturing centers (Baton Rouge, Charlotte, Miami, San Antonio, and Wichita).

BCG estimates the U.S. is, in fact, short some 80,000 to 100,000 highly skilled manufacturing workers, but that shortage represents less than 1% of the 11.5 million manufacturing workers in the U.S. and less than 8% of the 1.4 million highly skilled U.S. manufacturing workers.

BCG also says only seven states -- six of which are in the bottom quartile of U.S. state manufacturing output -- show significant or severe skills gaps. Only five of the 50 largest U.S. manufacturing centers appear to have big skills gaps. Occupations in shortest supply are welders, machinists, and industrial-machinery mechanics.

BCG says it came to its conclusions using wage data and manufacturing-job vacancy rates to figure out the localities where wage growth has exceeded inflation by at least three percentage points annually for five years. Wage growth is a widely accepted indicator of skills shortages. It reveals where employers have been forced to bid up pay to attract hard-to-find workers.

BCG put out a press release on its findings:

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