A study of the skills gap from the manufacturing perspective reports that 3.4 million new manufacturing jobs will be available over the next decade, mostly due to retirements. Of those jobs, 2 million will go unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants. Of 450 companies surveyed by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, 78 percent report the skills gap affects their ability to implement new technology and increase productivity.

According to the National Skills Coalition, employers in every state face a shortage of workers to fill middle-skill jobs. Middle-skill jobs require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree and make up the largest part of the U.S. labor market.

Business leaders are seeing these trends affect bottom lines. A recent CareerBuilder survey with the Harris Poll found that 55 percent of employers experienced a negative impact due to job vacancies. In fact, 82 percent say the skills gap affects the ability to meet customer demand. Manufacturing, health care, architecture and engineering, maintenance, repair and customer-service all face worker shortages. The demand for STEM workers is expected to grow by 17 percent through 2018.

Across the board, employers need workers with technical knowledge plus the employability skills that apply to any industry. When surveyed and asked to identify a major employee deficiency, executives said “problem-solving skills.” Basic employability skills remain high on the wish list.

Adding to the nation’s problems is the student-loan debt that undercuts the economic mobility for graduates that higher education once promised. An estimated $1.3 trillion in outstanding loans is owed by 44 million borrowers, with an average individual loan balance of $37,000.

Industrial Machinery Digest