Officials Look to Close Manufacturing, Health Care Skills Gap

Manufacturing, Health Care Skills Gap Image

As a growing number of manufacturers expect to bring more jobs back to the U.S. to beat the high cost of doing business overseas, many companies say the industry may not have enough workers with the right skills on their resumes

 to fill job openings in the future.

In Massachusetts, for example, state officials will soon launch its new “AMP it UP!” initiative in conjunction with the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative to inform more students, teachers, parents and career counselors about careers in manufacturing.

Edward Leyden, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Design and Manufacturing in Agawam and a co-chair of the collaborative, told the Springfield Republican that the group wants to dispel old perceptions that the industry is a “dirty, dying, smokestack trade” because it has become a computer-oriented business that now requires applicants have math and science skills on their resume.

Most of the shops are having a real hard time finding qualified workers, Leyden told the news agency.

A recent study by Northeastern University found that an aging workforce and high turnover rate will lead to more than 100,000 job openings in manufacturing over the next decade.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are not the only ones struggling to find qualified workers in the state. The health care sector is also experiencing a skills gap as many hospitals and medical providers anticipate an increase in demand due to an aging population and retirement.

Health care employers in the western part of the state said they have been trying to head off the shortage.

Baystate Medical Center recently debuted a new residency program aimed at helping new nurses move into more specialized areas such as critical care.

We’re trying to take advantage of more grant opportunities that help address those needs where we need to invest more in on-the-job training than we’re accustomed to, Patricia Samra, director of clinical work force planning at Baystate Medical Center, added.

Samra said the hospital already has an on-the-job training program for medical assistants and is developing a new one for pharmacy technicians.

In New Jersey, health care officials are also trying to lessen the impact of a health care skills gap with its Jobs for the Future initiative, which trains low-income residents for jobs as pharmacy technicians, nursing assistants, home health aides, dental assistants and other front line positions.

Randall Wilson, a senior project manager at Jobs for the Future told the North Jersey Record that the over-65 age population will double in the next 20 years, with 1 in 6 needing long-term care.

It creates a huge labor demand for nursing assistants, home caretakers and geriatric assistants, Wilson said.

Wilson said that many of these jobs do not require 4-year degrees and the state is currently working with community colleges to ramp up health care training. Two years ago, ten community colleges in the northern part of the state began a consortium to meet the increase in demand for health care workers as part of a 5-year, $24 million grant under the Affordable Care Act. The goal of the group is to provide 1,000 students a year with certifications and skills to work in the emerging field.

Candidates looking to pursue a career in health care may want to take an online aptitude test to determine if they have the right qualifications or will need additional education.

According to Wilson, from 2010 to 2020, there is a projected 70 percent growth for the number of home health care and personal aides alone, making it the fastest growing career in the industry.

Wilson said there is also an increasing demand for pharmacy technicians, medical assistants, health information workers and dental assistants.

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