Manufacturing employment is down just 1.3 percent in metro St. Louis in the year ending in November. But that disguises a serious shortage of workers in highly skilled factory trades.
Factories around St. Louis can find plenty of people for grunt jobs — lifting boxes, sorting parts and such. They have a much tougher time finding hands-on machinists, computer numerical control, or CNC, machine operators, toolmakers, industrial electricians, multi-skilled maintenance mechanics and other jobs that require math talent and a couple of years of schooling.
A recent national survey of association members found that 90 percent have moderate or serious trouble finding qualified employees, and jobs paying $20, $25 and sometimes $40 an hour are going unfilled.
A 2015 study by consulting firm Deloitte estimates that nearly 3.5 million factory jobs will open before 2025, mainly as boomers retire. Two million of those jobs won’t be filled because of the skills gap, says Deloitte.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch