The skills gap

Despite high unemployment, some employers can’t find skilled workers, AP reports.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — John Russo’s chemical lab in North Kingstown has been growing in recent years, even despite a deflated economy, and he expects to add another 15 to 20 positions to his 49 employees over the next year.

But the president of Ultra Scientific Analytical Solutions has found himself in a vexing spot, struggling to fill openings that require specialized training in a state where the jobless rate is close to 11 percent, the third-highest in the nation.

“It’s very difficult to find the right person, and there’s all walks of life trying to find jobs. I honestly think there’s a large swath of unemployable,” said Russo, whose firm manufactures and supplies analytical standards. “They don’t have any skills at all.”

The skills gap is a national issue.

Several states have created “lifelong learning accounts” to help workers save for education and training. Michigan’s  “No Worker Left Behind” initiative offers up to $10,000 for  unemployed or low-wage workers to train for jobs at community colleges.

Rhode Island is trying to move from low-tech, low-skill manufacturing and service jobs to a “knowledge” economy centered on IT and life sciences, AP reports. Downtown Providence’s Jewelry District has been rebranded the “Knowledge District.” But it doesn’t have knowledge-intensive jobs or well-educated workers.

For every 100 Rhode Islanders who start high school, 73 will graduate, a hair over the national average. Of those 73, 40 will enter college and 21 will earn a degree. Community College of Rhode Island‘s on-time graduation is only 9.8 percent; the vast majority of new students require remedial courses.

“If we don’t address this skills problem, American businesses will lack the world-class work force needed to compete at a global level, and many Americans will remain out of work, instead of accessing the high quality jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Penny Pritzker, a Chicago business executive who is advisory board chair of the Aspen Institute’s skills gap campaign.

Ultra Scientific finally found someone to operate a machine that performs high-pressure liquid chromatography. Russo hired a Ph.D. from Thermo Fisher Scientific, which is shuttering its manufacturing facility in east Providence.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON July 6, 2011

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