There was an interesting article in the Washington Post this weekend about how manufacturers in Michigan are having a hard time finding skilled workers to fill a now-burgeoning number of good factory jobs. The problem is that many of the state’s older laid-off workers do not have the technical skills needed to operate the automated equipment that is now used in most thriving factories. Meanwhile, younger people who might fill the gap appear to have little interest in or preparation for factory jobs—in part due to the perceived “volatility and stigma” of such work. Trends in education have played a role in this: Many high schools, the article notes, have scaled back vocational programs and shop classes in order to focus on college-preparation routes.
At this point, according to the Post reporter, some desperate manufacturers have resorted to seeking out candidates who have technical aptitude as opposed to specific vocational training—people “who like to fix dirt bikes and snow mobiles,” for example.
Makes you think: Know any kids like that? More important: Are schools providing opportunities for them? Or are they neglecting a potentially key sector of the work force—and the types of skill-sets it will need? Where does this apparent skills gap fit into discussions about 21st-century learning?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.