Colorado's Manufacturers Face a Tough Challenge
The need for skilled workers is accelerating, and there aren't enough of the right workers to fill open positions. Front Range Community College has a plan to help close that gap—but it can only happen with your support.
Manufacturing Jobs Growing in Number
Manufacturing is an important and growing segment of the Colorado economy. In 2016, manufacturing GDP accounted for 7.3 percent of Colorado’s entire economy, and 5.5 percent of its workforce (more than 143,000 jobs).
An FRCC analysis of 2017 Colorado labor-market data revealed that industrial maintenance, electronics technology, and engineering technology positions are predicted to grow faster than any other manufacturing-related occupational categories. In the next 10 years more than 1,300 additional jobs will be created for these positions -- more than 30 percent growth.
The number of jobs is increasing for a few reasons. Many companies are "reshoring" jobs from overseas to be closer to U.S. customers and to avoid higher foreign labor and energy costs. In addition, as the tech sector in Colorado sees steady year-to-year growth, manufacturing comes right along with it. From cybersecurity to networking, technology companies require manufacturing to support their growth.
With the number of jobs increasing, Gov. Hickenlooper has identified advanced manufacturing as one of the seven advanced industries that should be supported and promoted in Colorado.
Not Enough Trained Workers
The pervasive shortage of skilled workers has reached critical levels. Ignored, this shortfall will lead to significant economic headwinds for Colorado manufacturers.
In 2016 and 2017, FRCC staff heard repeatedly from manufacturing representatives about serious shortages of skilled workers in industrial maintenance, automation technology, electronics, optics, and machining.
Decrease in High School Vocational Programs
Vocational programs, which used to be an option for high school students, are not offered at most traditional public high schools. In addition, the increasing complexity of modern manufacturing technology requires some post-secondary education or training, which further depletes the pool of qualified applicants. Nationwide, 10,000 Baby Boomers a day are retiring, leaving many companies in the lurch for skilled manufacturing workers.
The Perfect Storm
As Colorado’s economy surges, the state needs more trained manufacturing workers to replace those who are retiring and to keep pace with the growing number of jobs. Industry partners have challenged the college to develop relevant programs. As ever, FRCC plans to meet the community’s needs.