Monday, July 27, 2009

Manufacturing is the Answer to the Economy Just not a Career

A recent survey by Deloitte LLP and The Manufacturing Institute shows that Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong national economy. Americans also believe that a strong manufacturing base is important to our standard of living and national security. Manufacturing ranked higher than technology, energy, healthcare, financial services, retail, and communications in terms of industries essential to a strong national economy. This probably comes from the belief that we can’t spend our way out of this recent economic downturn.

However, only 3 out of 10 Americans would encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing. This view is possibly due from an opinion shared by one third of Americans that manufacturing pay is lower than other industries and not a clean and safe place to work. The survey further shows young Americans are less likely to think manufacturing is high tech or requires educated, highly skilled workers.

"This survey sheds light on a massive disconnect we are facing in manufacturing," said Emily DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute. "People have an outdated image of manufacturing and the career opportunities available. Cutting-edge technology has transformed manufacturing in ways that are hard to imagine if you haven’t visited a factory lately. Jobs now require postsecondary education, skills certification and credentials across a broad range of high-quality, middle-class career paths. The reality is that manufacturers offer high-paying jobs and rewarding careers for American working men and women. Our job is to close the gap between perception and reality, which will help fuel the industry’s growth and prosperity."

Manufacturing only ranked 5th out of the above 7 industries as a career choice. This is unfortunate since 30% of employers surveyed worldwide say they still face skilled-workforce shortages despite the slow economy and rising unemployment. Manufacturing-related occupations including skilled trades, technicians and engineers rank among the top five positions that employers are having the most difficulty filling.

The survey found less than 2 out of 10 schools encourage students to pursue manufacturing as a career. Some educational institutes have recognized that academic and customized training programs must align with the needs of business and industry. To meet these needs, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system plans four steps: strengthening programs to ensure students have the necessary skills; expanding internship and apprenticeship options and on-the-job training; adding more online education and flexible programs; and continuing to work and communicate with local businesses. Some celebrities are even joining efforts to motivate students in America to consider careers in the unlikeliest of places – the factory floor.

While manufacturing is a priority most American (with the exception of young people, 18-24) want to see a more strategic approach to developing manufacturing in the US with further investments. Only 60% of Americans believe that the US manufacturing industry can compete globally. Americans also believe that various government policies including trade and taxes are creating a disadvantage for US manufacturers in the global market place.

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