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Manufacturing is the engine that made America prosperous.

Modern manufacturing will play a pivotal role in our long-term economic vitality.

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The Manufacturing Institute: Addressing the Skills Gap


In the early 1990s, Labor Secretary William Brock commissioned a report that projected shortages of high-skill workers in the coming decades. The report’s projections proved accurate. Today, the skills shortage is a real challenge facing U.S. manufacturers of all sizes.

According to The Manufacturing Institute, the education and research arm of the NAM, 82 percent of executives think the skills gap will hurt their ability to meet customer demands. As the baby boom generation continues to retire, the gap could result in two million unfilled jobs.

The shortage is real. It now typically takes 90 days to recruit engineers, researchers, and scientists. Job applicants often lack the math, computer, technology, and problem-solving skills needed for advanced manufacturing jobs. Access to high-skill foreign workers is unwittingly hampered by short-sighted federal limits on H 1B visas. Even the companies that are most creative in filling vacancies admit that the skill shortage is real.

The Institute is implementing an assertive multi-point strategy that promises to move the needle on this long-term challenge. A skills-gap solution must focus on youngsters entering the workforce, as well as retraining current workers, continuing to engage women in manufacturing, and welcoming veterans into the industrial workforce.

One priority is skills training. The Institute launched the Skills Certification System to advance a renaissance of manufacturing education nationwide. Standards are designed by and for industry, and endorsed by the NAM.

Since 2011, a total of 419,528 certifications have been presented to individuals for skills including machining-and-metalworking, welding, construction, automation, die casting, fabrication, fluid power, lean, quality, logistics, engineering, and other skills. Employers can hire these individuals with confidence in the skills they bring to the workplace.

There is a great need to reach young people with positive messages about manufacturing careers.

As Ray Bacon, president of the Nevada Manufacturers Association notes, young people can accumulate the right skills and knowledge, but manufacturers and educators must do a better job of inspiring young people to choose careers in manufacturing.

The Manufacturing Institute agrees. Research indicates that only 3 out of 10 parents encourage their children to pursuer manufacturing careers, and that Gen Y respondents rank manufacturing last as a career choice, according to the Institute.

To respond, on Manufacturing Day each October, the Institute partners with manufacturers to bring students into advanced-manufacturing workplaces to see first-hand how workers deploy technology, enjoy challenging work in clean environments, and create cutting-edge products. The tours also educate teachers, and generate positive press coverage that can shape public opinion.

The Dream It. Do It. careers initiative reinforces that message at the local level all year long, and encourages students to study math and science to prepare themselves for exciting career options.

To highlight the rewarding careers manufacturing offers women, the Institute presents the annual STEP awards, where 130 women in manufacturing honorees and emerging leaders are recognized. This again calls attention to attractive career opportunities.

The Institute also teamed up with Deloitte on a report titled, “2015 Women in Manufacturing Study: Exploring the Skills Gap.” Noting that women make up 47 percent of the workforce, but only 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce, the study offers valuable recommendations for increasing women’s participation in manufacturing.

To learn more about The Manufacturing Institute and its initiatives, click here.