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For Young People, Manufacturing Is Not A 'Sexy Vocation': Report

Manufacturing Young People

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 02/16/2012 3:09 pm Updated: 02/16/2012 3:09 pm

President Obama has made it a top priority to bring manufacturing jobs back home to the United States. But if he succeeds, he might have a tough time getting some young people to take those jobs.

"Young Americans just don't consider manufacturing to be a sexy vocation," Dennis Winslow, owner of the Georgia manufacturer Win-Tech, told CNN Money.There are not enough machinists in the U.S., and the number of young people getting trained for that position is declining, Rob Akers, vice president at the National Tooling and Machining Association, told CNN Money.

Many people, including President Obama, hope that manufacturing can be a job creation engine to help the economic recovery gain traction, but many young, educated Americans may be unwilling or lack the skills to take those jobs.

To be sure, with unemployment still high, many Americans likely want those jobs that young people are turning their noses up at; the jobless rate for the manufacturing sector was 8.4 percent in January. Still there might be a mismatch between those who want the jobs and those who are qualified.

One reason young people may be shying away from manufacturing is because it is no longer guaranteed to provide a middle-class lifestyle. While manufacturing jobs before the recession typically started at $28 per hour, now they start at around half that amount.

Job security in manufacturing is also less stable than before, as multinational companies increasingly rely on cheap labor abroad. Though the U.S. has been slowly adding manufacturing jobs, it still has 2 million fewer manufacturing jobs than before the recession.

Obama said in his State of the Union speech last month that he plans to advocate for tax breaks for companies that "insource" jobs to the U.S. Obama also stressed the importance of "insourcing" jobs during a speech at a Wisconsin manufacturing plant on Wednesday. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said in an interview after the State of the Union that such tax breaks "would make almost no difference" in bringing manufacturing jobs home.

Obama himself admitted in his State of the Union speech that there is a manufacturing skills shortage -- arguing that a boost in training was the solution. He pushed for a national commitment to train two million Americans for jobs in areas such as high-tech manufacturing.

But it's unclear whether young Americans want to be trained in high tech manufacturing. A survey by Universum last year found that young people would rather work at technology companies, banks, or consulting firms. Their most desired employer: Google.

A number of young people are willing to work in jobs that are not in their desired field -- but in their minds, perhaps just temporarily. Just 61 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are working in their desired field, while another 36 percent say they are working in a job for the time being until they find something better, according to a November study by Demos.

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