Swissturn was featured in the Boston Sunday Globe in a story about the skills gap.
Kenneth Mandile strolls across his factory floor, a converted mattress warehouse churning out precision parts for everything from endoscopes to guns. The factory in the central Massachusetts town of Oxford is purring loudly this afternoon, but Mandile, who is the president and owner of Swissturn/USA, has his concerns.
His father founded the company, and the younger Mandile began pitching in at age 11, cleaning floors and sorting parts. And for as long as he can remember, he’s fretted about finding workers to operate the machinery responsible for the satisfying hum. “Ever since I’ve been in the business,” he says, “we’ve complained about skilled labor.”
It’s the sort of lament that’s spawned bipartisan consternation about the so-called skills gap, that worrisome distance between the requirements of American employers and the talents of American labor. Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, has directed three of his top Cabinet secretaries to come up with a plan for narrowing the gap; their recommendations are expected this fall. Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, a Democrat, has launched a significant effort of his own. The issue has also crept into the presidential race. “The fact of the matter,” said GOP hopeful Marco Rubio, in a speech before the US Chamber of Commerce earlier this year, “is that millions of our people do not have the skills that they need for the 21st century.”
But even as the skills gap lights up teleprompters and fills editorial pages, a growing number of economists are sounding a sharp, skeptical note. The problem, they argue, is overblown. And the intense push to solve it will do little to address the defining challenges of an Age of Inequality. The focus on skills, said former US Treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers at a recent Brookings Institution forum, is “fundamentally an evasion of a profound social challenge.”