Could a vocational enrollment bottleneck harm manufacturing?

With U.S. manufacturing output declining slightly in August by 0.4 percent, domestic manufacturing companies are looking for ways to cement the gains of the past few years. For many, it is crucial that they have access to a trained workforce that possess the skills to succeed in an increasingly high-tech manufacturing environment.

However, it remains to be seen if the nation's vocational schools will be able to provide the graduates necessary to support industry. A recent report by the Boston Globe suggests that vocational and technical school in Massachusetts are dealing with long waiting lists for limited spots. This suggests that some manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to limits on training.

The Globe report cited a survey conducted by the Northeastern University School of Law, which found that about 3,500 students were unable to enroll in public vocational schools in the past two years. Many of these students were from poorer communities that suffer from higher than average levels of unemployment.

"The [vocational education] system is not valued as much as it should be," former NStar executive Don Walsh told the news source. "The biggest problem manufacturers have is running out of workers. The feeder system is not there in the capacity they need."

States that are home to rapidly growing manufacturing sectors, such as Texas, need to learn from the experience of Massachusetts. It is important to invest in vocational education so workers can enter the labor force with the skills they need to succeed in the manufacturing industry. Without this investment in education, CNC machine shops would have a much harder time providing their services.