(National Sentinel) Winning: On the campaign trail in 2016, then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump talked of renewing America’s manufacturing potential after decades of decline due to “horrible” trade deals like NAFTA that, he said, led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
After just two years, thanks to POTUS Trump’s economic policies of deregulation, tax relief, and other business-friendly measures, the U.S. economy is soaring and manufacturing, especially, is booming.
In fact, as UPI notes, the manufacturing industry is expanding so fast factories are having difficulty finding enough workers to fill open positions.
But it’s more than that. The newswire service notes that many of today’s manufacturing jobs are highly technical and skilled, making it even tougher to find enough qualified workers.
In fact, the dearth of workers is so severe some industry analysts are afraid that businesses might actually shrink when they could be expanding rapidly.
“The skills gap is real,” Ashley Chatham, a spokeswoman for Toyota, which has 10 plants in the United States, mostly in the Midwest and South, told UPI.
A report released this year by the Manufacturing Institute estimated that some 2.4 million factory jobs will go unfilled this decade alone.
The most difficult to fill are skilled jobs — digital positions and advanced production. Because of technological advancements in the industry, many of these positions require different kinds of training than traditional manufacturing.
“Job shortages are not new to manufacturing, especially in recent years,” the report said. “What is new to the talent shortage discussion is many manufacturers’ expectation that the situation is about to get much worse.”
That said, there is somewhat of a silver lining as well. The severe shortage of workers means there are a growing number of opportunities for workers in rural communities; some of the first people to recognize these opportunities have been local school officials.
“We want to get kids off on the right foot,” Jody French, the principal at Perry Central Community Schools, a rural district in southern Indiana, told the newswire service.
Her school is one of a few but growing number of districts bringing in manufacturers into their Midwestern communities to train high school students in basic operations. Students graduate with industry knowledge and, sometimes, a job.
“Manufacturing around here has a negative connotation,” French said. “People think it’s bad work, and dirty, and hard on the body. But that’s changed, there’s good money in it and a good quality of life. And we have a lot of manufacturing jobs in this area.”
Students who are not eyeing college, per se, are seeing the advantages of learning about manufacturing.
“It makes me feel like I’m forward in life,” Cole Kellems told UPI. “I’m only 17 years old and I already have more training than most 30-year-olds. When I graduate, I’ll have a job.”
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