“We see skilled labor employment not as a problem anymore,” said Steve Easley.
“It’s a crisis.”
Easley, business manager for United Labor Group, one of the Dilling Group companies, described the difficulty he’s had finding welders and electricians to fill positions with the Dilling Group, an industrial and mechanical construction company based in Logansport.
Many local workers are unskilled, and still more have experience — but in doing the job with the wrong procedures, he said.
“I have other companies, other manufacturers that follow Dilling’s people around because they want to hire them,” Easley said. “There’s nobody to build things in a skilled manner.”
The Dilling Group’s woes echo those of manufacturers across the country. Much has been written and talked about within the business world of the “skills gap,” describing a widening breach between the proportion of mid-level skilled workers needed to keep the economy humming — ones with associate degrees or similar trade certifications — and the proportion of the general population that is headed toward that kind of mid-level training and career path.
A recent report by the Lumina Foundation, “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education,” indicated about 65 percent of jobs will require some post-secondary education by the year 2020, but Cass County’s post-high school educational attainment level remains at just under 22 percent.
On the other hand, it’s unclear whether the skills gap is really as severe as all that. In a U.S. News report in June, Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris said that since wages aren’t skyrocketing in the STEM jobs — that is, jobs which rely on science, technology, engineering and math skills — and positions aren’t going unfilled for years, the skills gap may not be acute.
Whether it’s a mere pain to industry or threatens its life, analysts have also differed on how to fix the problem. And that’s where Easley said the Dilling Group is stepping in, in tandem with Ivy Tech Corporate College.