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Industry Data

Connecticut Manufacturers Can’t Fill Job Openings

Lack of skilled workers, an aging workforce and inadequately trained students entering the job market among biggest issues

Connecticut manufacturers are having difficulties filling job openings because of the lack of skilled workers looking for employment. In fact, many manufacturers say the state’s aging workforce, combined with the inadequate skills of job candidates entering the workforce, will make the problem worse within the next five years.

These are some of the key findings of the 2005 Survey of Current and Future Manufacturing Jobs in Connecticut. The survey was conducted by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association through a grant from the National Science Foundation to the College of Technology’s Regional Center on Next Generation Manufacturing in Connecticut’s community colleges. The center partnered with CBIA to develop a manufacturing careers campaign, which includes the survey, a media campaign, and a Web site, all designed to attract students to careers in manufacturing.

"The retirement of the baby boomers and a lack of qualified job candidates are threatening the ability of manufacturers to replace skilled workers and add more jobs, even as their business prospects improve," said Peter Gioia, CBIA economist.

"Businesses are having a difficult time finding workers with advanced skills needed for the high-tech jobs presently available in manufacturing," said Lauren Weisberg Kaufman, CBIA vice president of education and job training and executive director of the CBIA Education Foundation. "We must do all we can to educate and attract students to the new technologies and fields open to them to fill this critical need in the manufacturing industry."

Manufacturers said positions that are extremely difficult to fill are:

  1. CNC programmers (27 percent)
  2. CNC machinists (27 percent)
  3. Tool and die makers (22 percent)
  4. Technicians (21 percent)
  5. Machinists (20 percent)

In addition, 10 percent of manufacturing executives said engineering positions are extremely difficult to fill, and another 37 percent said they are very difficult to fill.

Manufacturers cited several reasons for the difficulties they’re having filling these positions. Nearly half (49 percent) said recent job applicants lacked the necessary skills needed for the positions. Other factors included a lack of job applicants (17 percent), the high cost of living in the area (17 percent), and a lack of affordable housing (10 percent).

Manufacturing executives also identified the top skills that are most in demand in their companies today and will be five years from now. Combining respondents’ first and second choices, the skill areas most frequently needed today are:

  1. Team building/problem solving (31 percent)
  2. Lean manufacturing (30 percent)
  3. Equipment operation (30 percent)
  4. Blueprint reading (26 percent)
  5. Engineering (16 percent)

Projecting ahead five years, employers said they will need the same skills as today but with the emphasis in different areas.

  1. Lean manufacturing (43 percent)
  2. Engineering (19 percent)
  3. Equipment operation (19 percent)
  4. Team building/problem solving (18 percent)
  5. Blueprint reading (17 percent)

The median age of manufacturing employees nationwide is 42. Connecticut’s workforce has a median age of 37.4 years, ranking it as the seventh-oldest workforce in the nation. More than three-quarters of Connecticut manufacturers say they expect up to 20 percent of their employees to retire within five years. And 94 percent expect to replace at least some of their workforce by 2010 due to employee retirements.

Manufacturers also anticipate a need for more employees as their firms improve over the years, as they develop new products, increase sales, and expand their companies.

"Manufacturing has a strong future in Connecticut and is a good career choice for many students. There are jobs available today for skilled workers. There will be jobs available to replace the baby boomers as they retire, and there will be jobs to fill as companies expand," said Kaufman. "We need businesses to work with Connecticut’s educational institutions to teach the skills necessary to meet the needs of industry’s high-skill, high-demand jobs."

More than a third (37 percent) of manufacturers said the job-readiness skills of the high school graduates they recently hired were average. Only 16 percent said recent hires had good or excellent job-readiness skills. Fifteen percent said the skills were fair, while 6 percent said recent hires were poorly prepared to enter the job market.

College graduates earned higher marks, with 23 percent rated either good or excellent for job-readiness; 28 percent, average; and 23 percent, fair, or poor.

Many manufacturers are taking steps to improve the skills of their employees by offering on-site training (36 percent) or tuition reimbursement for off-site employee training or job- related education (23 percent).

More than a third (36 percent) of survey respondents said they would welcome the integration of job-related training programs into schools to better prepare students for the workforce.

"The College of Technology is working together with the community colleges, technical high schools, and the business community to make sure advanced programs are being offered that will improve job-readiness skills of college graduates," said Karen Wosczyna-Birch, Director of the College of Technology’s four-year National Science Foundation grant program on Next Generation Manufacturing. "New courses are being developed and taught in lean manufacturing, green technologies, and laser training to help students get the skills needed to fill high-demand jobs in Connecticut’s manufacturing industry."

Manufacturers also said state government could help improve the quality and quantity of job candidates entering industry by:

  1. Increasing the number and quality of vocational education graduates (36 percent)
  2. Providing training assistance for new hires (30 percent)
  3. Increasing the number of technical training programs (25 percent)

More than half of manufacturing executives said the government could help them create more jobs by reducing health care costs (52 percent) followed by reducing government-mandated costs of doing business (49 percent), providing incentives for training (27 percent), and incentives for hiring new workers (26 percent).

"Connecticut manufacturers have positions to fill today and will in the future, but they need effective training programs to make sure Connecticut has an adequate supply of skilled people. Government must do its part to create a public-policy environment that is conducive to long-term business investment and job creation, and that allows manufacturers to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace," said Gioia.

CBIA is the state’s largest business organization, with 10,000 member companies. For a complete copy of the survey, please visit


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