Caterpillar says it faces shortage of qualified workers

September 12, 2011

The CEO of Caterpillar says finding trained workers has become so tough in the U.S. that it is hurting the company's ability to expand.

"I have employers who are waiting right now for me to send them applicants," said Debra Glanton of Illinois Welding School.

The school in Romeoville just completed a contract to retrain fifty Caterpillar employees.

Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman recently told a business audience that Caterpillar "cannot find qualified hourly production people, and for that matter many technical, engineering service technicians, and even welders, and it is hurting our manufacturing base in the United States."

In the last 18 months alone, Cat has added 11,000 jobs in the U.S. A company spokesperson would not say whether there's a shortage of workers at its plants in Aurora and Joliet.

Word of that demand is what drew many students to the Illinois Welding School, even though it comes with a minimum tuition of $5,000.

"I had been a furniture repair technician for over 20 years and got laid off and decided to go into another field," said Carnail Jones.

"No matter what, welding's gonna be a part of anything you do," said Sean Blair.

In some cases, state unemployment aid helps pay for retraining workers, and that has many wondering why more high schools aren't simply graduating more students with these types of vocational skills.

Caterpillar's CEO said he thinks "the educational system in the United States basically has failed them, and we have to retrain every person we hire."

"I think if you are not fit into a box where you're good at all four years of English, all four years of math, all four years of science, then you're kind of dead in the water until you find your own way," said Kelly Guerra.

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