It's not easy for Phil Roark to find the right employees. He's the plant manager for Eaton Corp.'s Aerospace Group in Charleston, South Carolina. The parts that Eaton manufactures in this large, clean plant end up in airplanes, where they help control wing flaps and landing gear. The work is intricate. Parts are cut inside closed chambers by machines run off computers. Quality control is done by people looking through microscopes. It takes skill to do this kind of work, and Roark has been struggling to hire people.

"Used to be you had a lot of shop classes, you had a lot of vocational aspects, but eventually I think it wasn't cool anymore to work in manufacturing," Roark said. "Everybody was being pushed to go get a college degree — be a lawyer, be a doctor — and there's nothing wrong with that. But at some point, you have to realize everybody's not doing that, and what happened to our ability to actually be able to make things?"