Manufacturers can't find workers? Not hard to figure why

Our local business paper picked up on a recent story in the New York Times about a manufacturer here that is having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire. To quote Crain's Cleveland Business:

"In Bedford Heights, supervisors at Ben Venue Laboratories, a contract drug maker for pharmaceutical companies, “have reviewed 3,600 job applications this year and found only 47 people to hire at $13 to $15 an hour, or about $31,000 a year,” the newspaper reports.

All candidates at Ben Venue “must pass a basic skills test showing they can read and understand math at a ninth-grade level,” The Times says. A significant portion of recent applicants failed, and the company has been disappointed by the quality of graduates from local training programs. It now is struggling to fill 100 positions. "

Both the NY Times and our local paper seem to be mystified as to why a manufacturer is having trouble finding qualified workers to fill $31,000 a year jobs. And, in so many words, the two publications are joining the chorus of criticism about the output of our educational facilities.

Let me say I am not all that surprised Ben Venue Laboratories is having trouble. I believe it has nothing to do with the educational establishment and much to do with alternatives for employment.

For example, the starting salary for a Cleveland firefighter is $44,142. Police cadets here earn about $10.50/hour during their training, and once on the job, their paycheck is in the $40,000 range.

Or if you would like to enter electrical trades for the City of Cleveland as a "line helper driver," the starting union wage is $17.73/hour for about $37,000 a year, excluding overtime. The starting rate for a union auto body repair worker is about the same, excluding overtime.

Manufacturing jobs used to be higher-paying. I believe this is yet another example that this is no longer the case. Often, it is now more lucrative to be a government worker rather than toil in private industry.

Here is the Crain's business story:

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The Editor’s Desk focuses on the engineering profession and its impact on society, trends in engineering compensation, and the education of engineers.


Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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