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Manufacturing & The Economy

MIT Report Suggests Manufacturing “Skills Gap” May be Overstated

Research groups formed within MIT’s new Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE) report analyze two critical inputs to bringing innovation to market: jobs and skills and advanced manufacturing technologies. For these research modules, the project used surveys as well as interviews. The group working on jobs and skills talked with companies, community colleges, high schools, and labor market programs across the country. Their sample of close to 1000 manufacturing establishments is the first nationally representative data on what skills are needed and shortages occur.

In Springfield, MA, the Hampden County Regional Employment Board (REB) is mandated by federal job training legislation to work with firms, localities, and educational institutions in the operation of the Workforce Investment Act. When the local machining association faced a shortage of skilled workers as the result of the closing of several large companies that had previously trained apprentices, it approached the REB. The REB brought the firms together with five vocational high schools and two community colleges. The connections between the schools and the companies had been thin and intermittent. With active intervention from the REB, the parties started to work on curriculum development; on training programs for supervisors and for unemployed workers; organized career fairs and firm visits to encourage high school students to consider machining jobs; and the gaps began to close.

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