In a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers late last year, 73% of manufacturers said attracting and retaining a quality workforce was a chief business challenge. Two-thirds said they were responding by giving more work to existing employees. There are other remedies, including hiring temporary workers, installing robots and partnering with schools to develop a new generation of employees. But, “the short-term response is to keep giving workers a lot of overtime,” says Denise Rice, director of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association.
Surveys by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry show that the labor shortage is now the biggest business concern and likely to remain so for years to come.
"As I travel across the state, different regions have different needs," says Denise Rice, director of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association. "But the one thing that I hear that is consistent everywhere is the concern over the skills gap and the challenge of getting a qualified workforce. I think this problem is at an all-time high and this is not a short-term problem."
Unemployment in metro Chattanooga peaked at 10.2 percent in June 2009 but fell to as low as 3.2 percent by last fall, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.