Building a High-Skilled Workforce

Jan 23, 2012

The New York Times digs into why the iPhone isn’t manufactured in the United States. From their reporting we find one reason is that China has a source of skilled workers that could be put to work quickly:

Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.

In China, it took 15 days.

American is faced with a skills gap. As The Atlantic’s Jordan Weissmann writes, “The problem isn't a lack of elite graduates. We have those. It's our unskilled working class.”

To fix that, last month, Domenic Giandomenico at the Chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce suggested an updated workforce development system “that actually serves as a dual-client system, utilizes workforce data to guide its programs, enables regional collaboration, eliminates sequencing of services, is fully compatible with and non-duplicative of other workforce development programs.”

And earlier this month, Domenic suggested more transparency in the costs and benefits of college degrees. He writes,

If we really want a more market-driven approach to guiding students towards in-demand occupations, showing the stark reality of their choices in black-and-white would likely be a good way to do it. If they still want to take the plunge, mazel tov. The choice will still be theirs to make. But in many other situations, they might see the data and take another path.

Because of the higher productivity of American workers, analysts at the Boston Consulting Group see the economy on the verge of an “insourcing” trend.  Training a quality workforce will be imperative to make sure that come to fruition.

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