Far from being dead, American manufacturing has accounted for many of the new jobs created since the Great Recession. It will not survive, however, unless it builds up a skilled labor force, says Mark C. Tomlinson, executive director and chief executive officer of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
"Many Americans may think that manufacturing is a dying industry, no longer the backbone of America’s economy," Tomlinson writes in the Christian Science Monitor. “But manufacturing employment has accounted for many of the non-farm payroll jobs created since December 2009 – almost 15 percent of them."
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Tomlinson notes that although only about a tenth of the nation’s total work force is in manufacturing, recent productivity numbers show manufacturing output per hour is strongly improving – up by 6.3 percent in just the first quarter of this year.
"Manufacturing remains at the heart of American innovation," says Tomlinson. "But there’s a crisis looming: Manufacturers can only sustain such high productivity figures by continuing to develop the sector’s current and future work force."
"It’s getting harder and harder to find qualified recruits for today’s advanced manufacturing jobs."
Today, the industry needs workers who have the skill to process parts, program and maintain highly sophisticated multitasking machines, such as those used in making titanium orthopedic part for a knee replacement.
In addition, Tomlinson says, workers must be focused on the company’s profitability.
Bloomberg reports that shares of manufacturers have trailed the broader market since the beginning of the year. The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Machinery Index has risen 4.9 percent this year, while the broader S&P gauge is up 6.9 percent.
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