Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Does a Skills Gap Exist?


We've been hearing about the skills gap in manufacturing for a long time. But, is it real?

The skills gap argument asserts that manufacturing has plenty of job openings, but not enough qualified labor to fill these openings. But how true is this statement? Is it actually just a labor shortage? Perhaps, employers are being too picky, given that there are many unemployed manufacturing workers in the area who were laid off from the massive downsizing and relocation of much of the manufacturing sector.

"There was a potential of thousands of people at a particular place, and now there are hundreds. And, that skill level is sort of ratcheted up that they need to be able to demonstrate. So it's harder to get something at an entry level" says Erik Gunn, contributing editor at Milwaukee Magazine.

Erik Gunn interviewed manufacturing managers, academics, workers and researchers for the most recent Milwaukee Magazine issue, in his article Mind the Gap.

The argument among researchers is whether or not there are people out there who have the skills--who subsequently aren't willing to take the jobs in their field because of low wages-- or if there really aren't workers who are a fit for the positions available.

Job security has been shaky in all fields during the past five years, so even with the proper education, does a mechanic or machines operator have a better shot finding employment? It's hard to tell.

"There probably needs to be much more research in terms of what's really going on, by someone with access to much more data. I think there is also, perhaps, a problem with the forecasting models," says Gunn.

Dan Harmon was one of the original members of Lake Effect (formerly At Ten). He started at WUWM in November of 1998 and left December of 2015 after 17 years of production.