Can The Manufacturing Industry Redefine Itself for the Future?

By Lance Scott, president, EAO Corporation (United States)

In an industry where the average pay is more than 80 percent above standard market rates, six out of ten skilled manufacturing positions in America remain open according to a recent survey by Deloitte(1). This number continues to grow as baby boomers retire and the amount of workers with adequate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) backgrounds continues to dwindle. Despite rapid deployment of innovative robotic and automation technologies, Deloitte anticipates that 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will become available over the next decade, yet approximately 2 million will go unfilled. 

But why does this matter? 

While manufacturing’s contribution to GDP in the U.S. has declined from 24.3% in 1970 to 12.8% in 2010(2), the sector remains one of the most important contributors to economic growth. According to Forbes(3), manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any major sector. Every dollar spent in manufacturing injects approximately $1.40 into the economy and it’s estimated nearly 18.5 million American jobs(4) are based in this sector. Although 90 percent of Americans believe manufacturing is important to economic prosperity, only one out of three parents would encourage their child to pursue a career in manufacturing.  

Much of EAO’s success can be attributed to our solutions-focused approach. A customer-oriented, project management process enables us to satisfy all end-user requirements in an efficient and cost-effective manner.  Our ability to regularly adapt to the ever-changing landscape enables us to excel as a global leader in Human Machine Interface manufacturing.

However, without an influx of new talent and ideas, we would be unable to continually provide the same award-winning products and services to which our customers have become accustomed. Implementing new technologies and meeting production goals would become a challenge that could ultimately diminish the success of our company – a concern echoed by 82 percent of manufacturing executives according to Deloitte.
Since 2012, Manufacturing Day has encouraged manufacturers to invite students, educators, business leaders, media and politicians to their facilities on the first Friday in October to promote the importance of the industry. Even if a company is unable to host their own event, it is vital they carry out the ideals it instills.

With value-added partners across all markets and more than 600 employees, we firmly understand the impact manufacturing has in America and beyond.  Altering the perception of manufacturing is essential to the success of the entire industry. Deloitte estimates that those familiar with manufacturing are two times as likely to encourage a child to pursue a career in the industry. This a major reason we support grassroots efforts to offer STEM and Advanced Manufacturing curricula at local colleges and universities, engage with manufacturing business groups and political leaders, and participate in activities such as National Manufacturing Day(5), a celebration of modern manufacturing aimed at improving public perceptions of the industry.  

Manufacturers across the country must come together to showcase the industry as a viable career option and develop innovative ways to attract new talent. Engaging with local schools and community colleges, and encouraging the government to increase focus on STEM-based programs in the education system could play a key role in shaping the future of the industry. Investing in internal training and development programs can also improve the ability of your current employees and enable them to adapt to these changes. While none of these options will single-handedly close the skilled workers gap, a combined effort now can help the manufacturing industry overcome these challenges and continue to prosper for years to come.