Beyond Shale and the Coming Labor Shortage

The boom in US energy production over the last decade has been little short of astounding, resulting in lower energy prices that are sparking an onshore manufacturing renaissance. But will the skilled labor be there to meet the need?

Shale oil and gas production in the United States is at an all-time high. The resulting cheap, abundant energy, combined with increased offshore production costs and tax incentives, is bringing manufacturing jobs back to America. Shale gas production in particular has a significant ripple effect for the domestic economy.

The main byproduct of shale gas extraction, ethane, requires domestic processing to make ethylene, a basic component for manufacturing a vast array of widely used chemicals and plastics. The reliable availability of low-cost ethane has already enticed major petrochemical manufacturers back to the U.S., with plans to spend billions of dollars re-opening or building new manufacturing facilities in the near future.

Combined with competitive demand for skilled labor from internet giants such as Google and Facebook, this will mean an increased need for skilled trades, of which electricians are among the hardest to staff. Unskilled general maintenance workers will be forced to step in and bridge the gap, and the resulting inefficiencies may prove costly. Companies that plan ahead to manage the coming skill shortage with troubleshooting training will reduce expensive downtime and take advantage of the manufacturing wave most effectively.

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