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CTE in the news: Skills gap hinders unemployed, business and industry

More than 20 million Americans have been unemployed or underemployed since January 2009, so why is it that there are more than 3 million job openings in the United States? Experts point to the skills gap as part of what is hindering the recovery of our nation’s economy, according to experts in a recent  60 Minutes news special.

The skills gap is a frustrating problem among out-of-work individuals, business and industries that need positions filled, and the rest of the nation that wants to see the health of the economy revitalized. The skills gap issue raises the question as to whether the nation is investing in and supporting programs such as Career Technical Education that will help educate and train workers.

Ryan Costella, head of Strategic Initiatives at Click Bond, a Nevada-based manufacturing company, is aiming to address the skills-gap issue among the company’s entry-level positions. Because applicants are lacking basic skills, Click Bond is collaborating with nearby community college to offer free training programs for select unemployed individuals.

“I think far too long we’ve had our heads in the sand, you know. We make our parts. We just hoped that the education system would produce what we need,” Costella said. “And I think the recession, I think a lot of things have taught us, ‘no, you have to engage.’”

Click Bond’s workers are expected to operate, program and fix computer-controlled machines that make precision parts, “accurate to a thousandth of an inch; the thickness of a piece of paper.”

“I can’t tell you how many people even coming out of higher ed with degrees who can’t put a sentence together without a major grammatical error. It’s a problem,” Costella said. “…We’re in the business of making fasteners that hold systems together that protect people in the air when they’re flying. We’re in the business of perfection.”

The experiences are not limited to the company, he noted. And the problem will only grow worse as a wave of baby boomers who work in these skill-focused jobs retire. Education and training are much needed to prepare the next generation of workers.

At Alcoa, a large aluminum company, executives are working on the challenge of retraining individuals so they keep up with advances in technology. Avoiding the widening of the skills gap is critical to the nation’s economic recovery. According to the report, Alcoa is one of the largest and oldest companies in the nation and has been hiring skilled workers since 1888.

“The environment is changing all the time. And if you don’t stay on top of things, you know, somebody will eat your lunch,” noted Klaus Kleinfield, Alcoa CEO.

“[Employees] also need to understand that their incomes over time are a direct function of their education and not just education, their skills, [and] what they can bring to the table.”

Erin Uy, Communications and Marketing Manager

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