Manufacturing: the backbone of the economy, and the life source of American consumers. It’s responsible for every single thing we rely on daily, from the food we eat to the electronics we count on to the medical devices that save lives.
Consider these statistics:
- In 2013, manufacturers contributed $2.08 trillion to the economy
- Manufacturers in the United States are the most productive in the world, far surpassing the worker productivity of any other major manufacturing economy
- Manufacturers in the United States perform two-thirds of all private-sector R&D in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector
- There are currently 600,000 skilled manufacturing jobs going unfilled in the U.S.
- An estimated 10 million new skilled workers will be needed by 2020
- 83% of companies report a moderate to serious shortage of skilled manufacturing workers; 69% expect the shortage to get worse over the next three to five years
When you look at the former and latter statistics together, it gives more than a little cause for concern; our most important and innovative industry is in serious need of skilled people to make it continue to thrive. Manufacturers of all sizes, in all locations, are facing this skilled labor shortage.
Thankfully, the manufacturing industry—and the country in general— is being true to itself, and is not simply rolling over or accepting the statistics. In fact, they’re going to great lengths to counter it. Throughout the country, local businesses, schools, and governments are coming up with creative ways to entice young people while both showing them the true advantages of careers in manufacturing and promoting STEM education—the key to manufacturing skills.
Take the city of Batesville, Indiana, where the high school and community college are teaming up with local manufacturers to provide on-the-job manufacturing training for young people. According to this article, the program “is aimed at helping alleviate a nationwide problem facing manufacturers: finding enough skilled workers,” and it seems to be working.
Then there’s the UpSkill Houston program, which this article calls “a blue print for leaders across the board – in the business community, at educational institutions, and within social service organizations – to build a quality workforce that meets employers’ needs.”
Girls Inc. is a program that inspires young women to pursue STEM education and careers, and is dedicated to bridging the gender and skills gap, while on a larger level, NASA plans on awarding over $17 million toward increasing “student and faculty engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at community colleges and technical schools across the U.S.”
The fact is, the skills gap is real and it is troubling. But America’s manufacturing industry is strong, resilient, and truly innovative. It will not give up. And we all, as Americans and manufacturers, can do our part to combat the gap and keep our industry growing and prospering. No effort is too small.