Caterpillar says has worker shortage despite job woes

CALGARY, Alberta Fri Sep 9, 2011 5:56pm EDT

Caterpillar construction machines sit parked at the Patten Cat dealership in Hammond, Indiana, in this October 20, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/Files

Caterpillar construction machines sit parked at the Patten Cat dealership in Hammond, Indiana, in this October 20, 2006 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott/Files

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) is struggling to add skilled workers in its manufacturing operations despite high U.S. unemployment levels that have forced President Barack Obama to take extraordinary measures, the company's chief executive said on Friday.

The dichotomy in the makeup of the workforce is threatening U.S. and Canadian competitiveness, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said.

"We cannot find qualified hourly production people, and for that matter many technical, engineering service technicians, and even welders, and it is hurting our manufacturing base in the United States," he told a business audience at the Spruce Meadows equestrian facility outside Calgary.

"The education system in the United States basically has failed them and we have to retrain every person we hire."

Obama, seeking to rescue the U.S. economy, announced a $447 billion job creation plan on Thursday.

The White House sees the plan, a mix of payroll tax cuts and spending to upgrade roads, bridges and school buildings, as the best hope for reducing the 9.1 percent U.S. unemployment rate, which Obama called a "national crisis".

Oberhelman said the service technician shortage is hurting Caterpillar's dealers as well.

"These things have pretty sophisticated instruments and we have to train for that. I would hope our education system could help and make up for some of that," he said. "Today it's several thousands shortage of those technicians for us around the world. It's acute."

Oberhelman said it is too early to tell if the United States or Europe is heading for another recession.

"Certainly the storm clouds have thickened a bit," he said.

He was in Calgary for a business roundtable on manufacturing. Caterpillar is a major supplier of the heavy equipment used to mine the Alberta oil sands.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Peter Galloway)

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Comments (2)
rcfjr wrote:
If you want an employee that feels good about themselves, or one that can weave a basket, our schools will supply you with one. They all can play video games and control their car stereo with their Ipods, but none can hold a wrench. Our schools are a failure, fully supported by their parents.

Sep 13, 2011 9:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
BAP0u812 wrote:
This ignores that for the past 25-years welders and technicians have sweated for ever decreasing pay and benefits while watching engineers, lawyers, CEO’s, CFO’s, and finance people get 100k salaries and 100k bonuses. If you want technical people and welders, pay them $30-50 an hour and then give them $100k bonuses and they’ll come. Who would sweat themselves to exhaustion every day for $15 an hour and no benefits when you could either make a boat load more or find another $15 an hour job that would entail playing with puppies all day? This guy has been in the board room too long.

Sep 13, 2011 10:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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