NAM State of Manufacturing Tour: Strong tailwinds for manufacturing

February 27, 2018
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) completed its 2018 State of Manufacturing Tour last week, making stops at several plants across the country, sharing insights about the future for manufacturing. In each location, one common themes was emphasized: Manufacturing is on the mend. Now, manufacturing needs workers.

While the economy and growth potential are improving, the shortage of skilled workers entering manufacturing just isn't getting better. The NAM estimates that manufacturers have 365,000 unfilled jobs now and will need to fill 3.5 million jobs in the next seven years. Upgrading the image of American manufacturing is one of the goals of NAM.

Rankin Technical College in St. Louis was one of the stops on the Manufacturing tour. Rankin recently launched a manufacturing incubator funded by a $2.5 million federal grant. NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and Emerson Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair David Farr, an industry leader in championing workforce development, toured the student learning facility and participated in a panel discussion with Emerson, Ranken leaders and nearly 200 students.

In an interview Timmons and Farr discussed their confidence in the future.

“Innovation is changing the way our industry looks, but it doesn’t change what’s at our core: men and women who have lent their talents to build something bigger than themselves – people finding purpose in making things that matter,” Timmons said.

“Leaders in Washington are showing a great commitment to manufacturing, and the industry is responding. Confidence among manufacturers has risen to historic highs, especially as workers and companies of all sizes see the benefits of tax reform," said Farr.

In the Michigan leg of the tour, Timmons Michigan Technology News (2/23) discussed the workforce issue, saying,"The nature of work is changing, and the types of jobs we’re creating are shifting. Innovation is transforming the way manufacturers operate, and there is an urgent need for talented and skilled men and women on our shop floors and in our facilities working as coders, technicians, craftspeople, designers, marketers and so much more.” Timmons also emphasized that “manufacturing jobs are no longer assembly line jobs,” and that “manufacturing needs engineers, chemists and PhDs.”

He was quick to add, "Not every manufacturing jobs requires an advanced degree," meaning applicants can win jobs without having to incur thousands in student loan debt. In addition, “community colleges are stepping up to provide the programming to teach the skills needed to fill the skills gap,” while, “employers themselves are adding on-the-job training programs, and he suggested workers will see more such employer training in the future.”

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