Manufacturing boom: Trade school enrollment soars
Many U.S. trade schools, such as the Lanier Technical College outside Atlanta, are seeing a jump in enrollment in manufacturing-related programs as need for skilled factory workers explodes.
August 1st, 2012
06:43 AM ET

Manufacturing boom: Trade school enrollment soars

By Parija Kavilanz, CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Trade schools nationwide are bursting at the seams as demand for skilled factory workers pushes enrollment to record highs.

American manufacturers in certain sectors are enjoying a rebirth fueled by the return of overseas production back to the United States. As factories crank up, they have an urgent need for high-skilled workers such as machinists and tool-and-die makers knowledgeable in computers.

Trade school officials say manufacturing programs are experiencing an influx of students - young people starting out, mid-career workers who are retraining after a layoff, and incumbent factory workers.

Workers are drawn not only by the opportunity but also the pay: Starting salaries of $50,000 to $60,000 are not out of range for high-skilled talent.

But the surge in enrollment is posing unique challenges for schools, many of which are running at or beyond full capacity for the first time in decades.

School administrators are clamoring to hire more instructors and secure funding to buy additional equipment and add classes.

These infrastructure limitations, and the fact that it can take a year or more to train high-skilled factory workers, mean that the current labor shortage could persist for several years.

Unlike 20 years ago, manufacturing today requires workers who are computer literate and skilled in computer-aided design and engineering, said Sandra Krebsbach, executive director of the American Technical Education Association.

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