Our nationally rebounding economy is paying dividends here, where some manufacturers report more jobs than qualified applicants.

At the top of the list? Computerized numerical control operators. They’re the ones who make computers run manufacturing lines. “If you want to be in manufacturing, the way I’d go is CNC. That’s the hot job,” Dr. Bruce Storey, Black Hawk College’s director of educational services, told Times reporter Jennifer DeWitt.

Welding, mechanical maintenance and engineering are among the fields identified by community college educators for ready employment.

Their observations, including those found in Sunday’s “What People Earn” report, complements our region’s hiring survey released last August.

Quad-Cities Chamber CEO Tara Barney said the number of manufacturing jobs jumped 15 percent from 2010 to 2012, reaching just more than 85,500.

That’s still fewer than the manufacturing jobs that ruled this area until the mid-1980s. But those were different jobs. Applicants today won’t work on the same line forever. They’ll be learning new systems to operate rapidly changing lines producing more custom products. Consequently, our region’s 2012 laborshed survey of employers put a higher emphasis on education than experience.

Half of anticipated vacancies reported in the survey required a high school diploma. Nearly 30 percent required more training, mostly skill certification, not necessarily degrees. Eighty-six percent called for no more than two years of experience.

These stats would have seemed unthinkable just a decade ago, when American manufacturing appeared doomed by American firms race to find lower wages outside the country. But the race for low wages ran headlong into customer demand for higher quality products, and manufacturers’ needs for efficiency and flexibility. Dixon, Ill., leaders celebrated a commitment by SGS Refrigeration to move its Monterrey, Mexico, cooler manufacturing to Dixon.

SGS representative Peter Speller said Dixon’s skilled workforce means more to his firm than Mexico’s lower wages. “There’s a ready, trained and skilled workforce here with talented professional people that can step in and pick up the pace rather quickly,” Speller told KWQC Ch. 6 news.

We also reported this month on manufacturing jobs coming to Clinton’s railport industrial

park, and Elliott Aviation’s ongoing expansion adding jobs at its Quad-City International

Airport plant.

These promising developments help affirm manufacturing’s future in a Q-C area focusing development and educational support to strengthen our economic backbone.

Survey says

Development leaders in Cedar, Clinton, Jackson, Muscatine and Scott counties released a workforce needs assessment in August. Here are the top 10 anticipated career vacancies based on surveys sent to employers through the region. The survey says small and medium employers of up to 99 workers account for 74.7 percent of surveyed vacancies.

Top 10 vacancies

Industry Anticipated openings

Health care support 17.4%

Office and administrative support 13.6%

Sales and sales support 10.4%

Production 8.5%

Transportation and material moving 7.2%

Installation, Maintenance and repair 6.7%

Healthcare practitioner technical 6.6%

Food preparation and serving 5.9%

Management 3.9%

Building and grounds maintenance 3.1%

Education required

None 17.3%

High School diploma/GED 53.2%

Vocational/tech training 12.8%

Associate degree 3.3%

Undergraduate degree 11.5%

Postgraduate/professional degree 1.9%

Experience required

None 48.0%

Less than 1 year 10.0%

1-2 years 28.7%

3-5 years 11.2%

More than 5 2.1%

Source: Iowa Workforce Development