Employment paradox

In late April, the National Association of Manufacturers released the results of an important study, Keeping America Competitive: How a Talent Shortage Threatens U.S. Manufacturing . If you have been watching this column over the past few years, you know that this is a topic we've touched on a number of times.

06/12/2003


In late April, the National Association of Manufacturers released the results of an important study, Keeping America Competitive: How a Talent Shortage Threatens U.S. Manufacturing .

If you have been watching this column over the past few years, you know that this is a topic we've touched on a number of times. Now the NAM has provided some important numbers and perspective to the problem.

There is a kind of paradox developing in U.S. manufacturing employment. The NAM report explains it this way:

"A long-term manufacturing employment and skills crisis is developing, one with ominous implications for the economy and national security. The loss of more than 2 million manufacturing jobs during the recent recession and anemic recovery masks a looming shortage of highly skilled, technically competent employees who can fully exploit the potential of new technologies and support increased product complexity."

A 2001 study conducted by NAM ( The Skills Gap: Manufacturers Confront Persistent Skills Shortages in an Uncertain Economy ) revealed that more than 80% of the surveyed manufacturers reported a "moderate to serious" shortage of qualified job applicants even though manufacturing was suffering serious layoffs. "In sum," the new report concludes, "what manufacturing is facing is not a lack of employees, but a shortfall of highly qualified employees with specific educational backgrounds and skills." Current trends project a need for 10 million new skilled workers by 2020, the NAM says.

"The most critical shortages ... were in production and the direct support of production, including engineering and skilled crafts. Manufacturers also cited shortages in technical skills, inadequate basic employability skills, and inadequate reading and writing skills among both job applicants and incumbent workers," according to the new study.

So, what's to be done?

The NAM report lists four proposals:

  • The President should declare manufacturing a national priority

  • Congress should establish a National Manufacturing Day

  • Manufacturers should open their plants to young people, parents, and educators on National Manufacturing Day

  • Educators should take students to a modern plant on National Manufacturing Day.

    • These proposals are all well and good. But they won't get the job done. To them, I would add, first, everyone working in manufacturing needs to take a personal responsibility to encourage young people toward careers in manufacturing. And second, I would encourage all professional associations and societies connected with manufacturing to set a priority on publicizing its importance and the fine careers it offers.

      This is not a problem to be corrected by "them." It must be faced and acted upon by all of "us."



The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

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

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me