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Op-Ed: Time to worry about the manufacturing-skills gap


This news story was published on October 3, 2015.
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Op-ed by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers Jay Timmons –

If manufacturing in the United States were its own country, it would rank as the ninth-largest economy in the world, with manufacturers contributing $2.09 trillion to the U.S. economy every year.

Every dollar spent in the manufacturing sector adds another $1.37 to the economy and each manufacturing job creates another 2.5 jobs in local goods and services.

No wonder 90 percent of Americans believe manufacturing is important for a strong economy. Yet, only 37 percent of parents encourage their kids to pursue manufacturing careers, and only 18 percent see it as a top career choice.

That discrepancy should alarm all of us. According to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, “The United States faces a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade, and 2 million of those jobs are likely to go unfilled due to the skills gap.” Skilled workers are in high demand at manufacturing companies large and small, but not enough young people are developing the skills needed to fill those jobs.

Too many people view manufacturers as outdated factories filled with line jobs – not as innovative, inventive businesses, where workers develop and use the latest technology and build lasting, middle class careers.

To remain globally competitive, we need to encourage more young people to pursue educational tracks that can lead to a successful manufacturing career.

That discrepancy should alarm all of us. According to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, “The United States faces a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade, and 2 million of those jobs are likely to go unfilled due to the skills gap.” Skilled workers are in high demand at manufacturing companies large and small, but not enough young people are developing the skills needed to fill those jobs.

Too many people view manufacturers as outdated factories filled with line jobs – not as innovative, inventive businesses, where workers develop and use the latest technology and build lasting, middle class careers.

To remain globally competitive, we need to encourage more young people to pursue educational tracks that can lead to a successful manufacturing career.

On Oct. 5, Ace Clearwater Enterprises and the Alcoa Foundation will host a STEP [Science, Technology, Engineering and Production] Forward event in Torrance, Calif., bringing together women in manufacturing to network, discuss challenges and opportunities and learn best practices.

The Obama administration is doing its part as well and working directly with businesses and communities. The Department of Commerce leads the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a network of 60 centers and 1,200 manufacturing experts, assisting small manufacturers in improving their production processes, upgrading their technological capabilities, and bringing new products to market.

Through our Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, the Commerce Department supports communities by encouraging leaders in a region to break down silos and develop thoughtful, comprehensive approaches to their economic development. The communities with the best plans are then eligible to receive funding from 11 different federal agencies to support the implementation of their strategy.

There is much for us to collaborate on when it comes to manufacturing and working together, we can both inspire the next generation and bring about a better and brighter future for manufacturing and our country.

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5 Responses to Op-Ed: Time to worry about the manufacturing-skills gap

  1. Avatar

    Allen Reply Report comment

    October 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    I thought that the ill eagle vermin coming into this country through osamas back door,were going to fill this gap.

  2. Avatar

    Katie Reply Report comment

    October 3, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Too many of the workers who used to fill these manufacturing positions are either having babies and living off welfare or can’t pass the drug tests and are living off the welfare moms or society in some form or other. There are so many people who choose not to work out there it is unbelievable.

  3. Avatar

    LVS Reply Report comment

    October 3, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    The problem is that over the years we have seen manufacturing do more and more automating causing job loss. Robots have caused a lot of this. However, there are still trade jobs to be had. Machinist, programmers and welders are badly needed. There was a time when company’s trained their own people. Most company’s had trainers on staff. Today, all the want to do is whine they can’t find trained people because they just do not want to take control and do it themselves. That requires people to go to a Votech School and get a two year degree. That ups the cost and they do not want to compensate people for the effort.

    • Avatar

      Bodacious Reply Report comment

      October 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      Although I agree with you about the wages part of this, many companies don’t want to train workers fearing that once they are trained, they will quit and go somewhere else. Someone who pays their own college costs is more likely to stay at a company. Many high schools and community colleges are on the right track by offering college credit and no cost classes for those who do have an interest in some of the areas you pointed out. The parents who don’t see manufacturing jobs as a career for their children think the kid has to make $100,000 or more to be ‘successful’. That kind of thinking then transfers to the kids and they don’t want a job where they will have to work hard. Once we change our attitudes, then perhaps the gap will decrease.

      • Avatar

        LVS Reply Report comment

        October 3, 2015 at 5:08 pm

        @Bodacious-I agree. Part of the problem is a lot of people just do not want to work and historically, if you work in manufacturing you are working against a measured time standard. Most manufacturing jobs are decent paying and offer decent benefits, but, you are required to earn your pay.