Drawing Attention to the Manufacturing Skills Gap

Lead story in the Washington Post today: "Wanted: Skilled factory workers."  Very nice report on the challenge that U.S. manufacturers face trying to find employees with the technical and math skills to operate the advanced technology found on today's shop floor.  (Those who haven't been on a modern shop floor might be interested in the brief virtual tour that the Post offers.)

Yet the story skims over the fundamental reason why we have such a skills gap in this country. While part of the problem lies with the perception that American youth have of factory work – one that is badly outdated – a more fundamental challenge is that kids coming out of high school simply don't have the math and science skills to do the job.

That's an indictment of our school system in this country. This isn't the first evidence of such an educational failure – over the past decade various international comparisons, including the latest Programs for International Student Assessment, have shown American students lagging well behind the front of the pack in math and science.

We're pleased that American policymakers are finally paying attention to the manufacturing sector. If they really want to help American manufacturers compete, this is one issue they should elevate into a major campaign issue.