The story isn't new.

It isn't surprising.

But it's real.

And it's on the minds of makers.

The skilled workforce shortage in American manufacturing is becoming a steady drumbeat in the ears of its leaders. Across the U.S., finding workers with the right skillset for in-demand positions is a challenge haunting factory floors.

It's the reason 600,000 manufacturing jobs are going unfilled, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

And, coupled with that, new graduates entering the workforce just aren't interested in careers on the factory floor.

An executive like Harold Boer, president of Rosenbauer America, struggles to find a third of the new employees he needs.

"There just isn't anyone available. We could use just about anyone," Boer says of the 280-person fire fighting vehicle plant he runs in Lyons, SD.

Boer says he'll hire and train just about anyone who has a reliable means of transportation and can read a tape measure.

"So why do people eschew these jobs, these technical careers?" Nick Pinchuk, president and CEO of Snap-on (IW 500/277) (SNA), asked during the IndustryWeek Best Plants Conference in Milwaukee, Wisc.

"The reason is, increasingly, if you listen to the rhetoric about manufacturing and technical degrees, things like welding, machine programming and so on, they're viewed as the consolation prize of our society," he said. "You see, we've lost the respect for the dignity of work."

Yet manufacturing remains the principle value-creating mechanism in the U.S., with every job created in the sector spurring the creation of 1-1/2 more jobs, Pinchuk said.

"I believe the No. 1 reason is we have a heck of a PR problem," he said.

He called upon the leaders in manufacturing to "to characterize these jobs in manufacturing not as the consolation prize but what they’ve always been: a national calling that creates the great society that America is today."

"I say the American worker is not a question. The American worker is the answer," Pinchuk said.