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Manufacturers Looking For Skilled Labor [AUDIO]

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ST. CLOUD — Businesses in Minnesota are growing, but one industry in particular is having a hard time catching up. Manufacturers struggled during the recession when the economy ground to a halt.

Potential expansion is hitting a new roadblock  as a shortage of skilled labor within manufacturing is beginning to cause problems for businesses.

A recent Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development survey found nearly 60,000 job vacancies in the state during the fourth quarter of 2012 — with manufacturing making up 9.2 percent of that figure.

Area schools, such as the St. Cloud Technical and Community College offer degrees with a variety of manufacturing skill sets.

However, these schools are not producing the number of students needed to keep up with demand, says Ickler Company General Manager, Carlo Schwinn.

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Industry officials say schools are doing a great job of training their students. It is simply a numbers problem.

A second challenge companies are facing is a perception of a dark, dirty and dangerous industry. During the recession, the number of job opportunities shank, causing fear that companies were taking their business overseas.

Central Minnesota Manufacturing Association President Les Engles says perceptions need to change before anything improves.

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New businesses are also opening up in the area that are stretching an already thin workforce.

German agriculture manufacturer Geringhoff plans to open a plant in St. Cloud. The company says it will look to initially hire 100 workers.

Ickler Company General Manager, Mark Held, says companies will need to offer more in order to attract new employees.

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Efforts are being made to change the view of manufacturing — including reaching out to high schools in hopes of attracting a new generation of workers. If new workers are not hired, the problem will compound as the workforce continues to age.

This report is part two of a three part series, that examines hiring in the St. Cloud metro area.

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