For the past several decades, the number of professionals entering manufacturing had decreased as many talented, young professionals have sought work in Silicon Valley and other tech regions. This is no longer the case.
We are experiencing a manufacturing resurgence in the U.S. as manufacturing is again recognized as the vibrant sector driving our country’s economic growth — the creative and innovative hard work that has long symbolized the American dream.
In the U.S., industrial output is booming and jobs have grown at a faster rate than any time in the past 20 years. Unsurprisingly, advances in the manufacturing sector are driving greater economic progress.
A recent study from the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation estimates that manufacturing accounts for approximately one-third of the U.S. GDP, with each manufacturing employee generating another 3.4 workers elsewhere along the supply chain, placing manufacturing at the heart of our economic prosperity.
Despite this resurgence, the manufacturing sector is facing a talent shortage that, if not addressed, will weaken the United States’ global economic leadership position. Over the next decade, nearly 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled in our country.
Given the numerous cutting-edge technologies that have been integrated into this sector, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, many of which will require the creativity and technological expertise that so many younger workers crave in their work, manufacturing companies are in need of software developers, data scientists and engineers who can help continue to drive the digital revolution forward and sustain our country’s economic progress.
While many qualified professionals are often drawn to big technology companies, manufacturers in the United States actually perform more than three-quarters of all private-sector research and development in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector, and providing significant opportunities for young talent to be involved in relevant, technological projects that have the potential to have a lasting economic effect.
Manufacturers are increasingly integrating new technologies in both products and processes and are at the cutting edge of advanced robotics, 3D printing and internet-of-things solutions. In addition, organizations are now using technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics to increase operating efficiency and output, while offering new learning opportunities and on-the-job training for employees to help them increase their skill set.
Together with the National Association of Manufacturers, we’ve advanced a nationwide perception campaign, “Creators Wanted,” to help students see the promise of a careers in the manufacturing industry.
It is important that students understand there are rewarding careers available for those who take an alternative educational path and we have championed partnerships with our Michigan Congressional delegation and the local community on programs that encourage high school students to consider careers in advanced manufacturing.
Most manufacturers offer apprenticeship programs and other valuable benefits, such as trade and professional education, for plant employees while they continue to work.
But a sector-driven recruitment campaign will not be enough. In order to meet the hiring needs of the next decade to continue driving the growth of the U.S. economy, we will need help.
As our new Congress enters into session, we urge members to support funding for additional STEM education, as well as vocational programs that will help students prepare for the workplace of the 21st Century.
There is no doubt about it — manufacturing is cool again. Let’s ensure that we continue to foster a full public and private sector commitment to advancing programs, like manufacturing apprenticeships and worker training, to provide a path for young people to achieve a rewarding career in advanced high-tech manufacturing. U.S. global competitiveness will depend on it.
Rick Haas is president and CEO of Mahindra Automotive North America and a board member of the National Association of Manufacturers.
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