Preparing for the future

Departments - Editor's page

September 8, 2015
Elizabeth Engler Modic
Elizabeth Engler Modic

It’s simple math. Every dollar spent in manufacturing adds $1.37 to the U.S. economy. And, for every 100 jobs in manufacturing, an additional 250 jobs are created in other sectors. These figures, from a report jointly produced by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, was the third such collaboration by the two groups. As in previous reports, economic conditions indicate growth in manufacturing will carry on while the skills shortage continues to hit U.S. manufacturing hard.

Anyone involved remembers the declining interest as manufacturing began to move overseas and local plants closed or decreased employment. With fewer prospects, interest in trade and vocational schools declined, and parents didn’t suggest it as a career choice to their kids. In return, high schools decreased their technical education offerings; many community colleges and technical schools scaled back their programs; other institutions just shut their doors.

Then it was a push to get more students interested in college and away from the trades. The U.S. was moving toward a service economy and a 4-year degree was the answer, not manufacturing. College costs began to grow exponentially and student loans were the answer. In fact, 2015 college graduates average student-loan debt of more than $35,000 according to analysis of data by Mark Kantrowitz, a student financial aid policy expert and publisher of That’s $35k in debt before starting their career.

Following the Great Recession, reshoring became the buzzword. Companies that started reshoring crunched the numbers based on transportation and energy costs, currency, availability of capital, market demand, and the tax/regulatory environment. After considering these factors, it made sense to reshore production. However, the excitement surrounding this brought up the urgency of the very noticeable skills gap.

In the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs need to be filled. Yet, because of the skills gap, 2 million of these positions could remain empty. The report explains that approximately 2.7 million jobs will come from workers retiring, with another 700,000 jobs created from business growth. This gap, in an industry that has lost its luster to many for many decades, needs to be narrowed.

Considering that an average manufacturing worker in the U.S. earned more than $77,000 in 2013 – 20% higher than an average worker earned in other industries – who wouldn’t steer their child into this sector? Suprisingly, only 37% of the CEOs and manufacturing executives responding to this study would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. The good news is those highly familiar with the industry have a more favorable view and are twice as likely to encourage their child to enter the field.

Maybe you are one of these individuals engaged and interested in building the next generation of skilled workers, and if so, I thank you. However, if you haven’t embarked on this path to discuss manufacturing and educate those around you about what a rewarding career it can be, there’s no better time than Oct. 2, Manufacturing Day 2015 (

I hope you are already a part of the more than 500 events scheduled nationwide that day. If so, please drop me a note at I’d like to know how you participated and what a difference it made.