2014 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs provides insight to industry challenges

A growing skills gap threatens growth prospects and the competitiveness of Connecticut's manufacturing sector, according to a new survey released today.

The 2014 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs shows widespread concerns with finding skilled workers to meet growing demand from the state's manufacturers.

"Manufacturing is the single largest contributor to Connecticut's gross state product and employs 10% of the state's workforce," said CBIA economist Peter Gioia.

"The sector is poised for growth but the challenge will be providing the skilled workforce that they desperately need."

The survey was published by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, the Connecticut Community Colleges' College of Technology's Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, and UIL Holdings Corporation.

On average, 22% of manufacturers expect to grow their workforce above 5% in 2015, with that number forecast to increase to 29% by 2018.

In addition, 85% of manufacturers plan to hire primarily full-time employees by the end of 2015, a significant jump from 30% in 2011.

Manufacturers report that overall employability and technical skills, advanced skills, and interpersonal/teamwork skills were the qualities most lacking among recent or attempted hires.

"If Connecticut's manufacturers are to remain competitive, we specifically need to address the shortage of individuals with engineering and other four-year STEM degrees," said Judith Resnick, executive director of CBIA's Education Foundation.

"We're starting to make good progress in developing a pipeline of entry-level manufacturing employees. We need to make similar strides at this next level."

Entry-level production and computer numeric controlled (CNC) machinists are two of the most in demand positions, while manufacturers said tool-and-die makers and CNC programmers were the most difficult jobs to fill.

While manufacturers are pursuing a number of strategies to address the skills gap, including in-house training and expanded apprenticeship programs, the survey's findings highlight the need for even greater collaboration between educational institutions and businesses.

"The key to creating the 21st century workforce is establishing partnerships where industry identifies the skills needed for next generation manufacturing, and higher education is responsive in developing stackable credentials that incorporate these competencies," said Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch, executive director of the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, National Science Foundation Center of Excellence.

The 2014 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs was emailed to manufacturing executives and human resource directors throughout Connecticut in late March and early April 2014. The survey had 246 respondents, for a 6.7% response rate and a +/- 6.38% margin of error.

Participating manufacturers employ over 27,000 workers in all eight counties in Connecticut and represent a wide variety of sectors, most commonly aerospace, metals, machinery, and chemical manufacturing. They range in size from 2 to 900 Connecticut employees, with annual sales from $1 million to $20 billion.

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CBIA is Connecticut's largest business organization, with 10,000 member companies. For more information, please contact Meaghan MacDonald (860.244.1957; meaghan.macdonald@cbia.com) or visit the CBIA Newsroom.