Immigration and education are key to fixing the US supply chain

A freight train carrying shipping containers travels toward the Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Port authorities in California and Utah have partnered with Union Pacific Corp. to move more cargo by rail, a step toward alleviating record supply-chain logjams plaguing the U.S.s biggest maritime hubs on the West Coast.

Bloomberg: The supply chain is both on the mend and undeniably broken. That’s the contradiction emerging from the quarterly ritual of companies explaining their earnings results to analysts.

First, the good news: Executives broadly agree that transportation logjams are easing and raw material costs moderating. The main impediments now to restoring the supply chain to normal are Covid-zero lockdowns in China and a scarcity of skilled workers in the US.

The pandemic awoke the C-suite to the dangers of tying too much of their supply chain to China. This is being immediately addressed with additional sources in other countries. Longer-term, companies plan to shorten supply chains by encouraging suppliers to manufacture in the US or at least in the Americas. This raises the thorny issue of having a fit-for-purpose labor force – something that requires public-private cooperation in education and a rethink of our immigration system.

The lack of qualified workers for US factory floors was a topic of concern before the pandemic and now it’s an emergency. It doesn’t take an expert in education to realize that we need more opportunities for vocational training that involve local companies seeking to hire. Even harder is fixing the US’s broken immigration system, which would require a political compromise in Washington.

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