Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 4: An Example of Skilled Worker Shortages

Workforce Development for Economic Developers

Part 4: An Example of Skilled Worker Shortages

To show how Smart Solutions Group estimates Skilled Workers Shortages, we will use an actual example for a multi-county region. One of the target industry clusters for this region is Advanced Manufacturing. The following is a description of the process we used to determine the major Shortages in this cluster:

  • For all 108 Production occupations in the Standard Occupational Classification System, we gathered information for the region’s labor market on current employment and wages as well as projected employment growth and job openings.
  • From this list we eliminate all of the occupations that pay below the Median Hourly Earnings in the region, which is $17.28.
  • Then we sort the remaining occupations (in this example there are 35 occupations with earnings above the median) by the projected annual Openings, which are listed in descending order.
  • We then calculate the projected Annual Surplus/(Gap) by subtracting the projected annual Openings from the Completion data for postsecondary institutions in the region for the last academic year. The following is the list of the five Production occupations, excluding supervisory positions, which have the largest number of projected annual Openings in the labor market.




Projected Annual Openings

2012 Comple- tions

Annual Surplus/ (Gap)

Median Hourly Earnings




















Food Batchmakers






CNC Machine Tool Operators






  • Next a preliminary assessment of each of these five occupations is made.
    • Welders: The four community colleges in the regional labor market had 107 students completed Certificate programs and 8 students completed Associate Degrees in Welding Technology/Welding. Since the number of annual Openings is nearly equal to the number of Completions, there is not a Skilled Workforce Shortage for this occupation in this region.
    • Inspectors: There is an estimated gap of 71 workers for this occupation. There is one postsecondary institution in the region that offers a degree program in Quality Control Technology. Given the Shortage for this occupation, attracting additional students to the existing Quality Control program should be a priority and there may be an opportunity for other community colleges in the region to offer a Quality Control Technical degree and/or certificate program.
    • Machinists: Three community colleges in the region offer programs in Machine Tool/Technology programs. The number of Completions exceeds the projected Openings giving an estimated surplus of 40 workers per year. The economic developers in the region may market to Advanced Manufacturing companies the fact that this region produces a high number of Machinists.
    • Food Batchmakers: There are no degree or certificate programs available for this occupation in the region, and workers receive on-the-job training for this position. As a result, there is an estimated annual Gap of 42 workers. Is there a significant need among area employers in food processing for a certificate program?
    • CNC Machine Tool Operators: There is an annual Gap of 41 Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators. Only one community college in the region has a program in Machining Technology but not one student has graduated from this program in the past 5 years. Why hasn’t there been any graduates in this program and what needs to be done to attract students to this program? Should the other community colleges in the labor market offer Machining Technology?
  • Preliminary assessments are also made of the 30 other leading Production occupations, and key Gaps and Surpluses are identified.
  • A focus group of executives and managers in Advanced Manufacturing is held to review the assessments of the 35 high-skilled Production occupations, and adjustments are made to the projected annual Surplus and Gaps when appropriate.
  • An action plan is then developed to mitigate the major Gaps.

After assessing the Skilled Worker Shortages for Advanced Manufacturing, the Shortages for the region’s other target clusters are analyzed. In addition, Shortages in major skilled workers clusters that are important to the region’s economy, such as Healthcare and Education, are also analyzed.

In Part 5 in this series, we will outline some strategies to mitigate major Skilled Worker Shortages. If you have questions or comments, please send them to Ed Andrews at

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