A recent 60 Minutes segment entitled "Three Million Open Job in the U.S., but who's qualified?", addressed many questions regarding manufacturing employment and the skills needed to succeed. Below we have some highlighted issues and information regarding manufacturing in the America.
Are manufacturing companies struggling to fill employment opportunities? It is true. Manufacturing companies throughout the country are facing a shortage of skilled labor, according to 60 Minutes reporter, Byron Pitts. It’s a problem shared by many businesses. However, today’s manufacturing jobs require skills that are often not the focus of our students’ or our educational systems. The new factory floor is more automated and sophisticated - requiring a strong basic understanding of the core concepts taught in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes. And according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, this problem will continue to grow and demand grows. STEM jobs are predicted to continue to expand and 80% of the jobs in the next decade will require technology skills.
How are companies dealing with the shortage? Many companies, like The Rodon Group, grow their own talent from within; offering select individuals the opportunity to learn the trade from skilled seasoned professionals. This is a large investment on the part of the company and the individual. Becoming a skilled tool maker can take up to 8 years to master the art.
Can you make a good living in manufacturing? The time and energy it takes to become proficient in a manufacturing career does have its rewards. Manufacturing workers are some of the highest paid high-school graduates in the country. These jobs tend to be stable and secure with less likelihood of unemployment in the future. And, they pay 26% more than non-STEM jobs.
Why is a career in manufacturing a good bet? U.S. Manufacturing companies not only offer well-paid employment opportunities, but they do so in an exciting environment of technological innovation. Manufacturing companies in American account for 72% of all private Research and Development investment. According to The Association for Manufacturing Technology, 2012 may be one of the best years in terms of new technology investment. So far 2012 is outpacing the previous year by over 5 percentage points. Manufacturing companies also contribute the highest number of new patents and they employ more scientists and engineers. They are constantly looking to improve their processes and products through investment and innovation.
Is manufacturing an important economic driver? Yes, not only in terms of higher-wage jobs but in the contribution these companies make to the local economy and beyond. For every one manufacturing job added to the local economy, 2.9 jobs are created in other businesses. For every $1 in goods sold, $1.43 is created in the local economy. Manufacturing companies produce $1.7 trillion of value each year.
How can a show like 60 Minutes help us bridge the skills gap? This high profile show can underscore the problem and bring it to the attention of the American public. Many parents and educators are uninformed about manufacturing careers and the STEM skills needed to pursue them. A study commissioned by ASQ and conducted by Harris Interactive showed that while most parents feel that STEM skills are important, many do not encourage their children to enter these fields of study. Here is what Harris reported. “More than half (53 percent) of parents of 10-17 year olds interested in STEM careers expressed concerns about their child pursuing a STEM-related career path. The biggest issue, reported by 26 percent of parents, is that their child is not being prepared enough by teachers in STEM subjects. Eighteen percent also worry that their child’s grades in STEM subjects aren’t good enough and that the cost and time involved in getting a STEM degree is too high compared to other degrees.”
Conversely, the study also found the majority of parents (93%) believe our country should make STEM education a priority and 50% would like to see their children pursue a STEM career path.
Can educators and companies fill the skills gap? During the 60 Minutes story, Professor Peter Cappelli of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School provided Byron Pitts insights into the worker shortage. According to Professor Cappelli, the lack of skilled workers can and should be addressed on many fronts. Companies should offer apprenticeships and co-op programs. Secondary schools should develop school to work integration so graduates have the basic skills needed when they graduate. If schools, educators, parents and hiring companies make STEM skill development and education a priority, we can prepare our young people and our country for a stronger, manufacturing future.
Summary of key manufacturing statistics
Manufacturing Companies create:
High paying jobs
Manufacturing STEM workers make more $$$
26% more than non-STEM
Highest paid, high-school grad positions
Lowest unemployment rates
STEM jobs will grow by 17% (vs 9.8)
80% of the jobs in the next decade with require technology skills
Manufacturing companies create Technological Innovation
Account for 72% of all private R & D
Contribute the most in new patents
Employ more scientists and engineers
Manufacturing companies contribute to a vibrant economy
1 Manufacturing job = 2.9 jobs in other businesses
$1 in goods sold = $1.43 in local economy
Produce $1.7 trillion of value each year
Sources: 60 Minutes, CBS News Magazine story entitled "Three million open job in theU.S., but who's qualified?; Association for Manufacturing Technology, U.S. Manufacturing Technology Order Report for Septemeber 2012; ASQ survey conducted by Harris Interacitve on STEM careers; The Wharton School Peter Cappelli, Wharton professor and author of Why Good People Can't Get Jobs, teaches a management class.