Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blue Collared, But Skilled and Educated

Each year John McGrath and Ronald Vickroy, professors at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, do a survey of the business prospects of Cambria (Johnstown) and neighboring Somerset County, PA. They’ve been doing the survey for 14 years and developed a good gage of the business sentiment of the region. They presented their findings at the Chamber’s 2007 Economic Summit that I was keynoting.

One of the major changes that McGrath highlighted in his presentation was the 30%+ growth in jobs in blue collar skilled and blue collar support positions compared to 28% in white collar skilled and 9% white collar support positions.

These new jobs are becoming increasingly more specialized with 46% requiring a certificate beyond high school, 15% an associate’s degree, 35% a BS and 4% a graduate degree. The days of a “strong back” and a good work ethic are rapidly declining and the need for more education of the workforce continues to grow in importance.

When McGrath and Vickroy surveyed employers on skills most lacking, communication skills (or lack thereof) were cited by 32% and work ethic by 22%. These were not a surprise to me as I’ve heard it before in my travels around the country.

The study showed the growth and good prospects for the manufacturing and high tech industries in western PA. I’m seeing it happen around the country and think we are in an increasingly important time for growth in the manufacturing sector. The survey in PA only solidified my conviction and observations.

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