Join the ranks of those who built this country — manufacturers

Join the ranks of those who built this country — manufacturers
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On Labor Day, we celebrate the American worker. Generations of workers in this country have built the mightiest economy in the world, one that stands especially strong today. But in one sector of the economy, manufacturing, we are facing a distinct lack of labor.

It’s a full-blown workforce crisis actually. As the executive director of the Manufacturing Institute — the social impact arm of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) dedicated to advancing modern manufacturing and the modern manufacturing workforce — I hear the same thing time and again from industry leaders around the country: America needs more manufacturing workers.

In a way, we should be celebrating this fact. We have this labor shortage in part because manufacturers have been doing so well. In a recent NAM survey, 95 percent of manufacturers felt optimistic about the future and about job growth, a record high.

But as bright as the future seems for manufacturers, it also looks underpopulated. In the same survey, 77 percent of respondents expressed deep concern about filling the skilled workers their businesses need to continue succeeding. 

This manufacturing workforce crisis will only continue to worsen as we move into the next decade. Right now, manufacturers in the United States have nearly 500,000 open positions, and the workforce crisis is only projected to deteriorate with the industry having to fill millions of open jobs in the coming years.

There are a variety of reasons why this crisis exists, and there are several ways to address it. That’s exactly why The Manufacturing Institute is engaged on so many fronts today.

We have programs to support women already in manufacturing and those looking to join them. We have a program for veterans called Heroes MAKE America that connects transitioning service members with manufacturing career opportunities and gives them the exact training and certifications they need to excel in them.

We’re also working hard to address one of manufacturing’s most difficult challenges — its perception problem; the idea that manufacturing is more like the industry your grandparents might remember than the high-tech, 21st-century, well-paying sector it is today.

The way we’re overcoming it is by showing the manufacturers of tomorrow what the modern manufacturing industry actually looks like.

On Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) — October 5 — and throughout the month of October, thousands of factories, technical schools and business associations across the United States will open their doors to parents, teachers and students. You can probably find one of these events in your own neighborhood; just visit our website to consult the full list. 

A wide array of companies will put on presentations of all kinds. PTC, for example, is launching a first-of-its-kind comic book with an Augmented Reality app experience to bring the modern manufacturing process to life and help inspire the next generation of leaders.

Moreover, as many who attend an MFG Day event learn, today’s high-skilled manufacturing careers usually pay more than an average American job, offer a safe and stimulating work environment and promise career-long job security. Most often, they don’t even require a college degree or the associated college debt. 

Students with all sorts of talents can find fulfillment and financial reward here; all we have to do is show them the way. The Manufacturing Institute and NAM are honored to support the next generation of American workers.

We stand in awe of the dedicated men and women who helped create our country’s economy, and we expect the same excellence from those who will succeed them.

We need a strong and skilled labor force not only to build our bridges, make our cars and provide our power, but also to be the foundations of our communities and the heroes to our children. To labor for America is to show our love for it. We are proud to help more people do exactly that. Happy Labor Day!

Carolyn Lee is the executive director for the Manufacturing Institute at the National Association of Manufacturers.