The manufacturing industry had plenty of reason to celebrate this December, finishing an already stellar year by adding an additional 32,000 jobs to the sector.
Bringing manufacturing jobs back to America was a top priority for President Trump in his 2016 campaign and it is clear that he has made good on his promises. According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, the manufacturing industry posted a net gain of over 284,000 jobs in 2018 with a majority of the gains taking place in blue-collar, durable-goods jobs such as machinery, cars, furniture, tools and consumer electronics.
The downside of all this great news remains the talent shortage, or skills gap. For decades manufacturing was looked down upon as dark, dirty, low-paying work. As a result, most entering the workforce have avoided manufacturing like the plague. As the exiting generation of skilled workers ages out of the workforce, there has been no new crop of skilled manufacturers to take their place and the recent surge in manufacturing has compounded the problem. Experts agree that in the next 10 years there will be nearly 4.6 million unfilled manufacturing jobs in our country.
Dr. Chad Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers and contributor to Manufacturing Talk Radio, states “Manufacturers are bringing people back into the workforce, and we need this trend to continue. Our industry currently faces a workforce crisis with more than half a million open jobs today, and 2.4 million jobs expected to go unfilled over the next decade. Closing the skills gap continues to be the top challenge facing manufacturers in the United States and is absolutely essential to ensuring that the sector continues to grow.”
The race is on to foster interest in manufacturing in a new generation of workers, and organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers and their “Creators Wanted” campaign are helping make manufacturing cool again by showing how manufacturing in the 21st century is a high-tech, rewarding field.
After decades of languishing in the shadows, manufacturing is back to being a driving force in our economy. The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation estimates that manufacturing accounts for almost one-third of the U.S. GDP, with each manufacturing employee creating another 3.4 workers downstream in the supply chain.