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The biggest question confronting private-sector industries in Oregon is how they will replace the skilled workforce approaching retirement.

40% of Oregon workers are 45 or older. Manufacturing is one of the industries that will be the hardest hit. 15% of manufacturing workers are 55 and older.

Oregon saw a 1.3% gain in manufacturing employment in 2006. From 2006 to 2014, manufacturing industries will face a significant number of job openings due to retirement.

The top four requirements for such jobs are basic skills in mathematics, bookkeeping, customer service, and team work, none of which require higher education.

To address the emerging labor shortage, most industries have stepped up their recruitment and training efforts. Yet the response is low. They are being compelled to turn to alternative sources for new workers, including job-training programs run by the Oregon Department of Corrections and nonprofit agencies working with distressed youths.

Oregon’s unemployment rate remains one of the 10 highest in the country, even though there are many job openings waiting to be filled. This demonstrates a disconnect between jobs and workers in Oregon. Whether the missing link here is lack of information and education, or lack of reliable transportation arrangements, would be really worth exploring.

Steve Buckstein is the Senior Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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