Lisa Bonner | , , , , , , , ,| By
Over the last decade, the United States has lost more than a third of its manufacturing jobs, 5.73 million, to lower cost, offshore competitors. Nevertheless, the US remains the world’s largest manufacturing economy, producing 18.2 percent of global manufactured products.
I strongly believe that diversity in the economy is critical and a strong manufacturing sector is vital. Advanced manufacturing will not only change the way we produce products and build machines, it will change our workforce and the competitive landscape. Developing talent and leveraging innovation in this field, as well as bringing manufacturing back home, are critical components to strengthening the U.S. economy.
Manufacturing is changing, getting redefined. The skills required are different and evolving. Understanding robotics, 3D printing, laser cutting, imbedding technology into products and a whole host of other high tech processes are the new norm. Gone are the days of making widgets on a crowded factory floor! It’s imperative that we create a highly skilled workforce that can support these initiatives and a paradigm shift in the perception of “blue collar” manufacturing roles.
Early in my career I worked in biotech. It was always a thrill to tour customers through our manufacturing facility where our diagnostic test kits were produced. I remember a group of investors commenting on the pride of producing something tangible and the gap in their roles. One joked, “I get paid for moving paper and money around, I don’t actually produce anything.” Many college grads are drawn to the glitz of Internet start-ups and web-based service companies, but should also consider manufacturing and the satisfaction gained from producing tangible products.
Glimmers of a comeback
Some companies are opting to reverse the outsourced trend and focus on building their supply chain in the US. In December, Ford Motor Company announced plans to invest $6.2 billion to expand its U.S. manufacturing base, which will help save more than 3,200 existing jobs and add another 12,000 positions by 2015.
Over the last 10 years, Lynn Tilton, CEO of Patriarch Partners, LLC has leveraged her expertise to turnaround more than 150 companies, saving 250,000 American jobs. I had the pleasure of meeting Lynn at the National Diversity Woman Business Leadership Conference in December where she was awarded the Mosaic Woman Legend Award. I was inspired by her energy, brilliance, fearless attitude, commitment to saving and creating jobs. Her motto- “Rebuilding America: One Company at a Time, One Job at a Time.”
In our quest for the least-expensive goods, American manufacturing jobs have been driven offshore. Are you willing to pay a bit more for U.S. produced products? An estimated 30 million Americans are underemployed. How do you think we should train them for new careers in advanced manufacturing? As I finish writing, I realize I’m humming “The Working Man”… I look forward to your comments.
What are your thoughts?
Our economy is in a state of recovery; will manufacturing jobs be the key to economic recovery?