Monday, July 9, 2012

New today: A report on skills deficiencies in the manufacturing workforce

In Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties, nearly one-third of fabricated metal manufacturers struggled to find qualified workers in 2011. According to the Oregon Employment Department’s new report, What Employers Want, most of these employers identified skills or related deficiencies in the workforce. More than 100 local manufacturers were surveyed for information on hard-to-fill occupations, skill shortages, and future expectations.

Fabricated metal manufacturers struggled to fill 18 different occupations, including welders and structural metal fabricators and fitters. These occupations represented 148 positions across 22 companies; 40 percent were vacant at some point during 2011. Employers had difficulty filling positions because applicants lacked soft skills, technical skills, training, or work experience (see chart, below). These workforce gaps stymied growth for many companies.

“Machine Use” is one of the most important technical skills to employers and the skill they had the most trouble finding in the workforce. Machine programming and the ability to operate computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) machines are particularly important to fabricated metal manufacturers. Other important technical skills include the ability to read blueprints or schematics, welding, the use of hand tools, and mathematics.

Employers also value soft skills, particularly a good work ethic. This skill includes characteristics such as integrity, reliability, focus, and willingness to work. Other important soft skills include communication, problem solving and critical thinking, and punctuality.

In the next 10 years, fabricated metal manufacturers expect they will need more of the occupations and skills which are currently the most important to their operations. Thus if the current workforce gaps persist, the gaps will be exacerbated as demand increases.

The full report is available at It is written by Brooke Jackson, Occupational Skills Analyst -- (503) 947-1263 or

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