Factory workers need algebra, trig

During the recession, manufacturers laid off 2 million workers. Now some are hiring again, but 21st-century manufacturing jobs require math skills that many applicants lack, reports NPR.

 North American Tool Corp.’s Jim Hoyt has two openings right now for his northwest Illinois company, and he expects to continue hiring. But he often sees the same problem crop up during the application process.

“I’ll write a few numbers down, mostly numbers with decimal points, because that’s what we use in manufacturing, and have them add them or subtract them, or divide by two,” Hoyt says. Job applicants often can’t do the math.

Most manufacturers use CNC, or computer numerical control, equipment. If the operator makes an error in calculation or input, it can crash the equipment, costing tens of thousands of dollars.

 These days, many employers don’t want to teach the basics and risk damaging equipment. So students have turned to vocational programs at schools like the Richard J. Daley College on Chicago’s South Side to learn how to operate CNC machines.

Ray Prendergast, who directs the college’s manufacturing programs, says algebra and basic trigonometry are prerequisites. The college’s admissions testing measures entry-level proficiency. But Prendergast says, “The majority of students who come into my program are not at English 101, and they’re not at Math 118.”

So Daley College offers a remedial bridge program to qualify students for training in manufacturing.