Friday, February 14, 2014

John Lechleiter's distortions of "600,000 unfilled manufacturing positions"

Over at In the Pipeline, Derek gives Lilly CEO John Lechleiter both barrels about this Forbes article, pointing out how much Lilly has shed employees over his tenure. In his article, Dr. Lechleiter starts with this:  
Right now, there are over 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in America. 
Many employers are eager to hire. They’ve got capital set aside specifically to invest in expanding their workforce. And they have applicants — problem is, many of them simply don’t have the training and education needed to perform the work. 
Largely to blame is the “STEM” skills gap, so-called after the core subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. It’s real and it’s growing. If we’re going to retain America’s greatest competitive advantage — our genius for innovation — we must inspire more kids to pursue STEM skills through education that’s engaging and effective...
What tripe. Here's my response to his comments:
I've linked the Deloitte/Manufacturing Institute report where this "600,000 unfilled manufacturing positions" number comes from. Here is how they report it: 
High unemployment is not making it easier to fill positions, particularly in the areas of skilled production and production support. There’s no way around it: respondents report, on median, that 5% of their jobs remain unfilled simply because they can’t find people with the right skills. Translated to raw numbers, this means that as many as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled, a remarkable fact when the country is facing an unemployment rate that hovers above 9%. 
First, the report is from 2011. 2nd, it's not a census of unfilled positions, it's an online survey of executives asking their opinion of the matter and finally, it's an extrapolation of their opinion. It's a wild guess and this number is being used to lie to the general public and politicians -- it's a damned shame. 
Also, Lechleiter's claim that "private industry is expected to add about one million new STEM positions over the next decade"? 75% of those are in computers and engineering, with only 5-8% being life science oriented. 
What is stunning about this is that Lilly is in a relative shambles, yet Lechleiter's passion on this issue is so strong that he's going around Washington, shaking a tin cup for Bill Gates and Sergey Brin. I don't get it. 
(And he's probably the most prominent non-academic Ph.D. organic chemist in the country - what a disgrace to our profession.)
What a disappointment, too. 

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