With the nation’s unemployment rate still topping 9 percent, a recent article in The New York Times points out that jobs are available in manufacturing and other industries. But increasingly, employers are saying they can’t find workers with the necessary skills.

Here’s from the article by Motoko Rich, “Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage“:

Factory owners have been adding jobs slowly but steadily since the beginning of the year, giving a lift to the fragile economic recovery.

And because they laid off so many workers — more than two million since the end of 2007 — manufacturers now have a vast pool of people to choose from.

Yet some of these employers complain that they cannot fill their openings.Plenty of people are applying for the jobs. The problem, the companies say, is a mismatch between the kind of skilled workers needed and the ranks of the unemployed.

The article continues:

As unlikely as it would seem against this backdrop, manufacturers who want to expand find that hiring is not always easy. During the recession, domestic manufacturers appear to have accelerated the long-term move toward greater automation, laying off more of their lowest-skilled workers and replacing them with cheaper labor abroad.

Now they are looking to hire people who can operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency than was previously required of the typical assembly line worker.

Makers of innovative products like advanced medical devices and wind turbines are among those growing quickly and looking to hire, and they too need higher skills.

“That’s where you’re seeing the pain point,” said Baiju R. Shah, chief executive of BioEnterprise, a nonprofit group in Cleveland trying to turn the region into a center for medical innovation. “The people that are out of work just don’t match the types of jobs that are here, open and growing.”

The issues raised in this New York Times article mirror those contained in a recent Corporate Voices’ blog post by Yvonne Siu, “Growing the New Economy — What Will It Take? A Look at the Role of Community Colleges in Workforce Readiness.” Here’s from that blog post:

As we emerge from the recent recession, we are discovering a changed economy, one in which sectors have vanished, jobs have disappeared, and in which new growth will require more education and different skills. There are nearly 15 million Americans that are still out of work and are unable to find opportunities with the skills which once earned them a living. As such, many of these displaced workers are going back to school to acquire new skills that better match the demands of the economy, according to an article by Jamie P. Merisotis and Stan Jones called “Degrees of Speed.”

According to the article, new research by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University shows that the economy that has emerged from the recession is one where most new jobs will require a postsecondary education. Of the 47 million jobs that will come online over the next decade, 30 million will require postsecondary credentials. Roughly half of those will only require a one-year certificate or two-year degree.

Given this reality, many people are looking to local community colleges, which have seen enrollment rates surge since 2008. Community colleges offer a viable alternative for workers interested in getting back into the workforce, however many obstacles remain.

Corporate Voices for Working Families believes that obtaining postsecondary education is critical for the workforce of the future and for America’s economic competitiveness. We are currently researching many “Earn and Learn” models in which businesses form partnerships with local community colleges to help younger workers work while getting their postsecondary education.