Manufacturing is one of the driving forces of the Minnesota economy. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, manufacturing accounts for 16 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Additionally, manufacturing directly and indirectly accounts for 1,020,500 jobs, or 36 percent of jobs in the state. However, there is a real shortage of workers with the skills needed in today’s technology-driven manufacturing industry.
A well-trained workforce is critical to the growth of the overall economy in general, and of manufacturing and industry in particular. And the people to fill the available jobs are hard to come by. In a 2011 survey of manufacturers by the Department of Employment and Economic Development, nearly half of respondents reported unfilled positions due to a lack of qualified applicants. In Northeastern Minnesota, it was 44 percent. The big thing to note is qualified applicants, which is at the heart of the skills gap. And it’s not only the “hard” technical skills that are directly related to the job, but it’s also the “soft skills,” such as communication, dealing with coworkers and general workplace habits that are lacking.