Manufacturing confidence poised for a rebound
Randstad study finds reinvestment in sector could deliver a stronger resurgence
The quarterly Randstad Manufacturing Employee Confidence Index measures overall confidence among manufacturing workers. In the first quarter of 2013, that confidence level dipped due to concerns over taxes and the federal sequester, but overall worker confidence has climbed over the past four years and now is at its highest point since the recession.
Randstad regional vice president Kimberly Brown said the manufacturing sector should expect that temporary confidence drop to fade and a rebound is on the horizon. She discussed that optimism with Plant Engineering content manager Bob Vavra:
PE: While your data indicates manufacturing worker confidence took a beating 2008 and 2011, there seems to be growing optimism among workers about the state of their industry. What’s driving this confidence?
Brown: Manufacturing companies are starting to invest again and regaining losses due to the recession. Individual consumers and companies are purchasing again so products must be moved – this is reflected in the national purchasing index, which has been strong. This positive movement is spurring job creation in the manufacturing sector and this is contributing to confidence among workers. With workers feeling positive about job prospects, the strength of the economy and job security, the manufacturing industry overall appears to be on the cusp of a healthy resurgence.
PE: What are the factors that contribute to overall worker confidence in this sector, and how much control do workers feel they have over those factors?
Brown: As more U.S. companies are bringing their manufacturing jobs back to American shores from overseas, it’s also driving more growth and demand for manufacturing workers. Technical and skilled employees within the manufacturing sector are in high demand, particularly production specialists at manufacturing plants. Some of the sectors that have been hiring heavily include automotive, supply chain and advanced manufacturing. We are seeing this worker confidence reflected in our own Index, with worker’s feeling more positive about their personal employment outlook, particularly in the availability of jobs and in their ability to find new jobs.
PE: As manufacturing starts to get a stronger reputation as a sound profession, do you expect you’ll see these figures rise?
Brown: Yes, we do. We believe the U.S. manufacturing sector remains poised to undergo a significant rebound and will likely surpass global competition in the future. Technology is really driving the resurgence in our sector, and software that bridges the virtual environment and the real world promises to streamline and bring efficiencies to the manufacturing process and boost productivity. In fact, hiring for software developers in manufacturing is 61 percent higher than demand seen at this time four years ago. This is also driving more growth and demand for skilled manufacturing workers and we expect to see worker confidence follow.
PE: We know the Skills Gap issue continues to weigh heavily on the future of manufacturing. Is there a sense among younger workers that their careers in manufacturing are more secure?
Brown: There is definitely a shortage of skilled workers, especially in skilled production jobs. In fact, a recent report by the Manufacturing Institute stated 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs remained vacant across the U.S. due to shortages of skilled workers. This is hampering manufacturing companies’ ability to expand and improve productivity. The future is bright for manufacturing workers who have these skills, but it also underscores the importance of training and preparing our nation’s next generation of skilled workers
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Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.
There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.
But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.
Read more: 2015 Salary Survey