Companies are struggling to find qualified workers to fuel any kind of economic recovery and replace retiring baby boomers, business leaders told Gov. Bev Perdue Monday at an economic roundtable in Charlotte.
“We’re adding 1,000 jobs at our site,” Mark Pringle, director of operations for Siemens Energy, said as he pleaded with Perdue to focus on basic education for workers. “If we want to promote ourselves (in Charlotte) as an energy capital, we need skilled workers.”
Pringle was one of eight guests on the roundtable and listened as Perdue bemoaned possible cuts to education in a Republican-proposed state budget of about $19 billion being discussed in Raleigh. Perdue said such huge cuts in education — as much as $100 million — could result in a loss of 600 teaching jobs and would “reflect badly on our state. I mean, that would put us below Mississippi.”
Pringle said Siemens needs competent workers as it expands in Charlotte. The company announced plans last year to create a hub in Charlotte to build gas and steam turbines and create 825 new jobs and more than 100 million square feet of manufacturing capability. The jobs were in addition to a 200-job expansion announced in 2009.
“For every 50 jobs we post, we have 2,000 applicants,” Pringle said. “But only 10 percent of them pass the basic skills tests we give them. We need to focus on the basic math and reading in the beginning grades. Our applicants need to be able to do that math and read blueprints. We have many more trained people we have to hire, and the applicant pool is starting to slow down.”
Scott Baughman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.