Hire Achievement: Booming Manufacturing Needs Workers

Hire Achievement: Booming Manufacturing Needs Workers
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
Hire Achievement: Booming Manufacturing Needs Workers
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
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Economic commentators are catching on to the story manufacturers have been sharing for a while: In 2018, manufacturers were the stars of the U.S. economy. Our industry had the best year for job creation in more than two decades, adding an average of 22,000 jobs every month—bringing the total number of American manufacturing workers to more than 12.8 million.

Powered by tax reform and regulatory certainty, manufacturers spent the year keeping our promise to secure those tools and invest in our people. In addition to hiring new workers, manufacturers also raised wages and benefits and invested in new operations and new equipment. Reflecting the historic nature of 2018, the National Association of Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, which has tracked manufacturers’ sentiment for 20 years, hit a new record of optimism. 

Manufacturers entered 2019 with strong momentum, and now we expect the growth and hiring to continue. We have challenges, to be sure, and know there will always be bumps along the way—but the skeptics and naysayers have it wrong when they question the strength of modern manufacturing in America. In reality, manufacturers wish we could hire skilled workers even faster. There just are not enough of them.

Today, manufacturers need to fill 428,000 jobs. And according to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and education partner of the NAM, manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs over the next decade. But under current conditions, not enough Americans are pursuing these careers, even though they pay on average $84,832 a year in wages and benefits, or $32,000 more than jobs in other fields. Of those 4.6 million jobs that will be open between now and 2028, as many as 2.4 million could go unfilled. 

We need skilled workers—and we need them now. In addition to men and women who create things with their hands, this includes coders, programmers, technicians, designers and other jobs that require some degree of specialized training. We don’t think of these as blue-collar or white-collar jobs but “new-collar” jobs, the jobs that put the “modern” in “modern manufacturing.”

As we deploy new technology—from artificial intelligence and augmented reality to advanced robotics and 3-D printing—manufacturers will require more skilled workers in this next frontier. Across America, manufacturers of all types are saying, “Creators wanted.”

That is the message the NAM is sharing with the country right now on the NAM State of Manufacturing Tour, which this year is taking us to Colorado, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, Minnesota, California and Arizona.

Across America, manufacturers have taken the initiative to be the solution to this workforce crisis, partnering with local schools and offering training, re-training and up-skilling of their own. We have created our own recruiting campaign at CreatorsWanted.org. The Manufacturing Institute, through its Heroes MAKE America program, is training servicemembers for careers in manufacturing after they leave the military—in addition to other initiatives to bring underrepresented groups into the industry.

A strong manufacturing industry should be a priority for all Americans because it is vital to the overall health of the American economy, to our ability to lead in the world and to our security at home. It puts the American Dream in reach for more people, while delivering the products and technology that improve daily life for everyone.

That is why parents, educators and local leaders should be champions for manufacturing careers. It is why leaders in Washington should listen to manufacturers in their home states who are calling on them to invest in our infrastructure, fix our broken immigration system and give us the chance to sell more products around the world through the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and a new trade agreement to hold China accountable.

Manufacturers are not the type to worry about the future—we build it. That has been our role throughout the history of this country. If more Americans join us in this mission, and if lawmakers in Washington do their part, we can build a future that defies expectations and breaks new records.

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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