One of the threads of discussion on the web site www.practicalmachinist.com in late March was the need for skilled machinists.
Shops owners from all over the U.S.—Long Island, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, California—weighed in saying that they cannot find qualified machinists, and that advertisements placed in local newspapers that drew 10 or 20 responses a few years ago now draw only two or three responses.
The reasons behind the shortage were argued in the discussion and causes were variously laid to a variety of factors, including the relatively low pay for starting machine operators, the difficulty in training good employees and keeping them from jumping at higher pay offers from other companies, and the economic changes in the United States that is moving the national economy away from manufacturing to services.
In light of that economic shift, several comments were made that large manufacturing companies - such as Boeing Company—have laid off hundreds of thousands of skilled machinists, but that those skilled laid off workers seemed to have dropped from sight.
The discussion included comments from several young machinists who talked about the low wages, and the promise of higher wages in the future that sometimes are blocked by their companies' policies of providing limited training,— "just enough to do my job," as one contributor said.
The discussion also turned to foreign competition, and how manufacturing jobs in general continue to be exported.