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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012

Honda boosts North American auto manufacturing

Yet skilled manufacturing jobs go unfilled across many industries



By Clark Howard


At a time of high unemployment, we're not necessarily suffering from a lack of manufacturing jobs here in the United States. We're actually suffering from a lack of skilled labor.

It may sound crazy when I say to you that America is back strong as a manufacturer. But it's true. The old story that we were a 'has been' and no longer competitive with foreign manufacturers is simply not the case today.

As proof of that, Honda plans to radically boost auto manufacturing in the United States and to export American-built Hondas around the world, probably eventually even to Japan!

"Following the expansion push, 95% of the vehicles Honda sells in North America will be made there, and the region will account for about 50% of Honda's global production capacity," according to The Wall Street Journal.

Everywhere you look manufacturing is making a big comeback in America.

But here's the rub: Manufacturing is completely different now than it was 20 years ago. The equipment is very often sophisticated and automated. So a factory in any given industry that may have required 1,000 people in 1992 is able to put out the same amount of goods with only 75 people on staff today.

Unfortunately, manufacturers can't find 75 people who are qualified! The Washington Post  ran a story about a factory in Michigan searching for months for a machinist, an assembly team leader and a die-setter. Another plant the reporter visited was offering bonuses for referrals of skilled workers. They've been trying for 7 months to fill jobs in that plant!

This automation of today's manufacturing machinery requires workers to go back to school for more training, usually to a technical or trade school.

Yet there's another complicating factor here. As manufacturing declined in the U.S. over the last 10 years, a lot of union shops laid off all the younger workers who didn't have seniority and they're now left with older workers.

For example, Boeing has almost a third of its workforce eligible for retirement today. Those are high paying and high skilled jobs at Boeing facilities from South Carolina to Washington State that will need to be filled.

So if you're looking for work, know this: Right now in manufacturing, there are more than half a million jobs going unfilled. And this is just the tip of the iceberg as we in the United States become a powerhouse in manufacturing again.

There is opportunity, but you've got to flex. Get the training, skills and education necessary to make those high paying jobs your job.