Today we're pleased to have a guest blog from Eileen Markowitz, president of Thomas Industrial Network.
To engage this new generation of manufacturers, we must restore — and elevate — the perception of manufacturing in America.
When I was growing up, it seemed like everyone believed that United States manufacturers made the greatest products in the world. From our home appliances to our cars, we all chose Made in America products for their quality and their value. No other country put as much pride, innovation, and workmanship into their design.
U.S. manufacturing was a flagship of our economy, and nothing could knock it from its pedestal — or so we thought.
Of course, the sentiment has changed since then as the economy has grown more global, and countries like China compete on price. But the pendulum is swinging back — or should I say forward — as Made in America quality once again becomes a status symbol for consumers and a competitive advantage for manufacturers here at home.
My company recently conducted its annual Industry Market Barometer® survey of U.S. manufacturers on the growth and outlook of the industrial sector, as well as strategies companies are employing to get there. The findings confirm this transformation. We heard from more than 1,600 manufacturers, and nearly 8 out of 10 indicated they expect growth next year.
By standing behind their Made in America quality, these manufacturers are even taking back business from the Chinese. Our research shows that U.S. manufacturers are entering new markets, expanding into new regions, and increasing their exports. With their gears fully in motion, American companies are looking to hire more workers to meet new market demand.
And that’s where this engine of economic growth suddenly starts to sputter.
Our research supports what we are all seeing every day: Despite an unemployment rate of close to 8 percent, manufacturing jobs are going unfilled. Nearly half of our respondents want to bring in line workers, skilled trade workers, and engineers. But the people who are qualified for these jobs are either untrained or uninterested.
This is a symptom of a larger problem. Despite the resurging interest in U.S. products, American manufacturing is in need of a brand makeover.
While Americans are proud of the quality of our products, many have a far different perception of manufacturing jobs. They’re blind to the reality that today’s manufacturing jobs blend design with technology and robotics, and many pay extremely well.
Respondents to our survey stress the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curricula, along with support for technical and vocational schools. One of them notes that we must “get the message out that manufacturing isn’t dead in the U.S.; it has just gone high-tech.”
U.S. manufacturers have a passion for their industry. Eight out of 10 of those we surveyed would choose their industries all over again, and they want to share their enthusiasm with the next generation. Great things are possible when bright, ambitious young people have the opportunity to apply skills and knowledge to real-world applications. To engage this new generation, we must restore — and elevate — the U.S. manufacturing brand.