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How G.E. and Toyota solved their skilled labor shortage

  • Joanna
  • April 29, 2016

The challenge was significant: General Electric wanted to increase production at a lighting and appliance factory in Louisville — but it couldn’t find enough people to staff the plant.

Finding people who wanted the jobs wasn’t the problem — this was, after all, an area that had been particularly hard hit by the economic recession. It was also, however, an area with one of the lowest percentages of skilled workers in the country.

Fortunately for G.E., there was a clear path forward, according to a report from the Brookings Institution. Just a few years earlier, Toyota had demonstrated that it could find all the workers it needed through a paid apprenticeship program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, about an hour west of Louisville near Lexington. G.E. formed a group of a dozen manufacturers with similar needs, and a similar program at Jefferson Community and Technical College was soon launched.

These days, a lot of corporate leaders seems to be in a perpetual state of lamentation over the shortage of skilled labor. Fewer — but far happier — are those who having taken the initiative to do something about it.