Edited by John R. Bryson, Jennifer Clark and Vida Vanchan
Chapter 30: From skill mismatch to reinterpretation: challenges and solutions for manufacturing worker retention and recruitment
The ultimate resource of an industrial economy is its people. (Dertouzos et al., Made in America, 1989: 21) Skill builds by moving irregularly, and sometimes by taking detours. (Sennett, The Craftsman, 2008: 238) Manufacturing jobs are coveted, and for good reason. On average they provide significantly better wages and benefits compared with most service sector jobs that share a similar labor pool. Yet changes to educational requirements for new and incumbent workers potentially threaten job access for moderately educated workers that have long enjoyed a middle class existence as result of their employment in manufacturing. This emergent labor market challenge motivates a more critical examination of the way that skill, and more specifically changing perceptions of skill, might affect manufacturing worker recruitment, retention and mobility. While this shifting educational requirement is especially pronounced in the United States, related pressures have emerged in labor markets in Europe and Asia, and thus indicate an opportunity for international comparison and policy reflection.
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