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Worker shortages could have dire consequences for auto industry

Saginaw Future INC

Major worker shortages in the tool and die industry could spell trouble for auto manufacturing in the US.

A recent study from the Center for Automotive Research says more than three-quarters of workers in the tool and die industry are 45 years or older.

Kristin Dziczek is with the Center for Automotive Research. She said it has been hard to bring new workers into the field.

“A majority of the workforce in this area are able to retire. Now or in the next couple of years. Most people in this occupation in the country are over the age of 45 and a large proportion are 55 or older. The backfilling attrition is really a big issue.”

And Dziczek said the tool and die industry is essential to the future of auto manufacturing.

“You don’t have machines that make fenders you have machines that make metal parts. You need to have the tooling and the dies and the molds for plastic and other resins in other to make the shapes of every single part in your car.”

Dziczek isn’t the only one worried, either.

Rick Kolacz is the plant manager for  Mika Tool and Die in Auburn Michigan. He said while they currently have a full staff he spent months advertising open positions.

“No one wants to work with their hands anymore and no one wants to get dirty. I’ve got machinists who make over 50 - 60 thousand dollars a year getting their hands dirty.

Kolacz said while community colleges offer two year training programs it’s been difficult getting students to enroll.

Kristin Dziczek with the Center for Automotive Research. said industry experts are worried.

“The folks who were at our conference I asked them is tool and die capacity, is the number of hours we have to build tool and die, which is largely governed by the people we have in those careers, is that a constraint to future growth? They said it’s a constraint to future existence, not just future growth.”

Dziczek said it’s worrisome - not just for the industry as a whole but for Michigan specifically, the largest concentrations of openings in the country are in Grand Rapids and Detroit.

She said more recruiting and increasing communication between community colleges and the industry will be important in addressing the shortage.