Production jobs rare for young workers

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Young people in the Pittsburgh region are facing a future with fewer opportunities to garner skills, just as the population of older skilled workers is heading toward retirement.

A report released Thursday by the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board has verified what anyone driving past a job site or a mill can see: The workers in the region who make things are getting older. In 2000, just 13.2 percent of the workforce in the goods-producing industries were over age 55; by 2010, that percentage grew to 25.7 percent.

The goods-producing sectors include mining and logging; manufacturing of durable goods, such as steel and autos, and non-durable goods, such as food and textiles; and the construction industry. Those industries have historically provided middle-class jobs, jobs that are now being held by older workers.

As of 2010, there were 44,649 workers aged 45 to 54 producing goods in the region. Those same industries employed 31,417 workers aged 35 to 44 and even fewer workers aged 22 to 34 (22,554).

The report also notes in some sectors (educational services, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, public administration and utilities) there are more workers over the age of 55 than there are under the age of 35.

Stefani Pashman, executive director of the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, said the findings show that students in the region need clear pathways into vocational programs at high school that lead to technical programs in community colleges aligned with available jobs. "A four-year college isn't for everybody," she said.

She said while in the past, students might get jobs right out of technical high school, manufacturing has become more technical so those students need more precise computer skills.

At the same time, the report calls for better uses of the aging workforce, such as pairing older and younger workers so that the younger employees can be mentored. The report says that hiring younger workers will become difficult if there aren't enough experienced workers to train them.

businessnews

Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.


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