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Closing the Skills Gap

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Good morning, friends, and happy Tuesday!

The Wall Street Journal recently featured a story on the growing skills gap that is leaving thousands of higher-skilled jobs unfilled. Anna Louie Sussmann reports,

Amid anxiety about the disappearance of factory jobs, thousands of them are going unfilled across the U.S. The number of open manufacturing jobs has been rising since 2009, and this year stands at the highest level in 15 years, according to Labor Department data.

The skills gap poses substantial problems to the ability of America’s manufacturers to fulfill the needs of their consumers.

Eight in 10 manufacturing executives said the expanding skills gap will affect their ability to keep up with customer demand, according to a 2015 survey by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, an industry-backed nonprofit.

Part of the skills gap can be attributed to the inability of education and training programs to evolve at the pace of technological advances.

Companies say education and training systems haven’t evolved alongside industry needs. As manufacturing lost jobs to technology and outsourcing, young people pursued college degrees or jobs in the growing services sector. Colleges and high schools reduced their focus on technical education.

So how should we proceed to begin closing the skills gap?

In Getting Back to Work, his book in CRN’s Room To Grow series, Michael Strain asserts we must expand apprenticeships, which he describes as “an especially promising work-based learning program.”

What role should the federal government play? As CRN’s Solutions Center advocates, “Congress should encourage employers to expand registered apprenticeship programs by providing a modest, time-limited business-related tax credit for each apprentice they hire and education.”

Then, the federal government should get out of the way. Strain writes,

Apprenticeship opportunities should be determined by firms, not by bureaucrats. If the skills firms demand change, then firms will simply post vacancies for different types of apprenticeships. There’s no need for bureaucrats to determine what skills the market will and won’t want — under apprenticeship programs, firms, responding to market forces, will train workers in the skills the market rewards.

For economic, job, and wage growth and to help close the skills gap, policymakers should encourage the expansion of apprenticeship programs.

Want more conservative ideas to get Americans back to work? Check out Strain’s book here.