The advanced manufacturing industry is growing more and more mainly due to business expansion through organic growth and the modernization of manufacturing technologies. It sounds really good in and of itself, but a closer look reveals a pretty big issue, and action needs to be taken now if we want to see our manufacturing sector still performing at a gain ten years from now.
With manufacturing jobs being more and more in demand, it is predicted that over the next ten years 3.5 million positions will be available in the manufacturing field, of which 2 million positions will remain unfilled because of skilled labor shortage. The math in that says that this will lead to a loss of $32 billion that could’ve otherwise go back into our economy, but will go instead into finding skilled workers for those 2 million unfilled manufacturing jobs.
So why exactly will we be facing such a major skilled labor shortage? There are a couple of factors that will lead to this situation. One is the movement of experienced workers which causes the loss of embedded knowledge. Another factor is the shortness of workers that have certified STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills). A third factor is represented by the decline of technical education and vocational training in schools.
However, the main two reasons why the future of the advanced manufacturing workforce raises concern are economic expansion due to natural business growth, and the baby boomer retirements that will likely leave somewhere around 2.7 million open jobs.
To be able to grasp the importance of the impact this will have on our country as a whole, here are a couple of facts:
Approximately one of seven private sector jobs in the US directly depends on the local manufacturing base;
Every 100 jobs in the manufacturing sector creates an extra 250 jobs in other fields;
One dollar spent in manufacturing adds $1.37 to the country’s economy;
The lack or decline of a US-based manufacturing workforce is a matter of national security.
We need highly skilled, trained people to fill all the jobs that will be available as a result of workforce retirements and organic growth in business. And we need to be able to find that skilled and up to the challenge workforce fast, without manufacturing companies having to lose over 10% of their net earnings looking for that workforce, and without manufacturing companies having to lose precious time and resources training people that may very well end up leaving the job because they didn’t know what they were getting into from the get-go.
Solutions such as reintroducing vocational training in schools, and creating organizations that help veterans and transitioning Service members get certified for jobs in advanced manufacturing are a very promising start to avoiding a decline in the US advanced manufacturing sector, but it’s up to every individual to do an effort in order to raise awareness on the issue, and to encourage the development of more solutions.
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