Manufacturers to American Workers: We're Hiring

Manufacturers to American Workers: We're Hiring
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For manufacturers in America, the past year has been transformational. We hear it every day from manufacturers of all types, from large iconic brands in big cities to family-owned businesses in small towns: We’ve never been this optimistic about the future. 

At the end of 2017, the National Association of Manufacturers surveyed its membership and the results were recording-breaking. Almost 95 percent of respondents felt positive about the outlook of their businesses — an all-time high in the survey’s 20-year history. 

Manufacturing is in the spotlight, with elected leaders and the American people cheering for us. Demonstrating where manufacturers sit in today’s America, three of the guests of honor for President Trump’s State of the Union address were manufacturers — Steve Staub, Sandy Keplinger and Corey Adams from Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Dayton, Ohio. 

Manufacturers’ newfound confidence didn’t happen by accident. Major developments in Washington, D.C., dramatically improved the business climate in the United States, most notably regulatory relief and, at the end of the year, historic tax reform. 

It all freed up time, energy and resources that would otherwise have gone toward complying with complicated federal rules and the highest tax rates in the developed world. As a result, manufacturers are investing in their people and communities. We’re seeing story after story of businesses expanding their operations, offering raises or bonuses, buying new equipment and hiring new workers. 

On the policy front, there’s still more that can be done, including a bold investment in our nation’s infrastructure, further regulatory relief, immigration reform and expanded trade. 

But there is also a generational challenge that requires more than just a shift in government policy: building the modern manufacturing workforce. 

Yes, the fact is that new technology doesn’t reduce the need for workers. Just the opposite is true: It increases the demand for people with the knowledge and skills to harness the power of these new innovations, which include everything from robotics to virtual reality. 

Emerson, the global manufacturer based in St. Louis, develops and uses many of these new solutions. Right now, Emerson is looking for technicians, welders and electricians, as well workers to fill roles in additive manufacturing and programming software for manufacturing automation and safety. 

According to analysis from the NAM’s Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, manufacturers in the United States will need to fill about 3.5 million jobs by 2025. But about 2 million of those jobs may go unfilled because it is so difficult to find people who have the skills in demand.

Equipping people with those skills is on all of us, particularly manufacturers who have a responsibility to increase awareness about the jobs that are out there. Local communities, states and even the federal government have a role in working with businesses to identify the demands and to help educational institutions match their programming appropriately.  

The need is so great that Emerson invests directly in up-skilling its employees, helping workers move up the ladder by developing new technical expertise. Emerson has also spent millions to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and training across the country and actively promotes STEM scholarships to Ranken Technical College, the University of Missouri and other institutions. 

When we talk about training, we don’t necessarily mean traditional four-year college degrees. In many cases, well-paying manufacturing jobs may require one or two years of vocational training or work toward an associate’s degree. A certificate at a local technical college paired with an apprenticeship opportunity may be more than enough to land a hands-on, high-tech job on the modern shop floor—a job that is neither “blue collar” nor “white collar” but “new collar.” 

In other words, manufacturing can be a promising career without the financial burden that students today frequently face. The average manufacturing worker earns about 27 percent more in wages and benefits than the average worker across all sectors.  

To those wondering if they can find a place in the modern workforce, the answer is an unequivocal yes. With the right skills, we have a place for you in modern manufacturing. This week, the NAM has been crisscrossing the country to tell this story. As part of the annual NAM State of Manufacturing Tour, we are spreading the message that manufacturers across America are saying, “We’re hiring. ‘Creators Wanted.’” To learn more, visit

It’s not just about the health of manufacturing; it’s about the strength of the entire U.S. economy. Manufacturing contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy and employs more than 12 million men and women. To grow the U.S. economy and build our future, we must secure the future of manufacturing in the United States — and answer this generational challenge. 

David Farr is chairman and CEO of Emerson and board chair of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, the largest manufacturing trade association in the United States.

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