Manufacturers Broke Jobs Records in 2018. Here’s What We Can Do to Make Sure Those Jobs Get Filled.

By January 7, 2019Shopfloor Main
skills gap

The Department of Labor released its December U.S. jobs report last Friday, and the latest numbers made it official: manufacturers created 32,000 jobs in December, adding up to a total of 284,000 jobs in 2018. That’s the biggest job growth in the industry since 1997.

It’s great news, but there’s a catch – due to an unprecedented skills gap in the U.S. workforce, the manufacturing industry is struggling to fill all of their open positions.

In some cases, manufacturers can’t find workers with the right technical and digital skill sets they’re looking for. In others, talented students are avoiding the manufacturing sector altogether due to outdated perceptions of what the industry has to offer. Regardless, nearly half a million manufacturing jobs remain unfilled as of last count, and The Manufacturing Institute’s and Deloitte’s 2018 Skills Gap Study found that this number is expected to grow in the coming years. In addition, the National Association of Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey in the last quarter of 2018 found that the workforce crisis is the top-rated concern among U.S. manufacturers.

In short, the workforce crisis will continue to threaten the future of the manufacturing industry unless we do something about it — and we at NAM’s Manufacturing Institute are doing something (actually a lot of things) about it, each and every day. The Institute has taken on a leading role in pursuing solutions to guide more workers through the manufacturing talent pipeline – we already have several programs that are making an impact. 

  • Our Heroes MAKE America program helps connect returning service members to rewarding manufacturing careers by providing them with the exact trainings and certifications they need to make a success of those careers and then pairing them with manufacturers looking to hire new talent.
  • The STEP Ahead program helps foster a 21st century manufacturing workforce by giving the women leaders in today’s manufacturing the recognition they deserve, building their networks and adding to their professional development. STEP elevates the role models that can inspire the next generation of female manufacturing leaders.
  • Thousands of facilities open their doors on Manufacturing Day to students, parents, teachers, policymakers and community leaders to show them all that a manufacturing career has to offer.

In addition to the Institute’s work, manufacturers across the country are doing their own part in training the workforce of the future. GE Appliances, for example, launched a jobs program last year that offers opportunities for high school seniors to gain first-hand experience in the manufacturing industry; United Technologies boosted investments in 30 workforce training programs across the country; Boeing partnered with the National Science Foundation to invest $21 million in online training for critical STEM skills. These are just a few of the countless examples of what industry is doing each day to help solve the skills gap.

Making these kinds of important investments in our workforce now is absolutely critical if we’re going to sustain the growth trend in U.S. manufacturing. Manufacturers can only grow if they keep building the workforce of the future—and that means arming students with the right skills they need and keeping the manufacturing talent pipeline open.

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Carolyn Lee

Carolyn Lee

Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute at The Manufacturing Institute
Carolyn Lee is Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute, the non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the nation’s largest industrial trade association. Carolyn drives an agenda focused on improving the manufacturing industry through its three centers: the Center for the American Workforce, the Center for Manufacturing Research, and the Center for Best Practices.

In her role, Carolyn leads the Institute’s workforce efforts to close the skills gap and inspire all Americans to enter the U.S. manufacturing workforce, focusing on women, youth, and veterans. Carolyn steers the Institute’s initiatives and programs to educate the public on manufacturing careers, improve the quality of manufacturing education, engage, develop and retain key members of the workforce, and identify and document best practices. In addition, Carolyn drives the agenda for the Center for Manufacturing Research, which partners with leading consulting firms in the country. The Institute studies the critical issues facing manufacturing and then applies that research to develop and identify solutions that are implemented by companies, schools, governments, and organizations across the country.

Prior to joining the Institute, Carolyn was Senior Director of Tax Policy at the NAM beginning in 2011, where she was responsible for key portions of the NAM’s tax portfolio representing the manufacturing community on Capitol Hill and in the business community and working closely with the NAM membership. She served as the Director of Legislative and Government Affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association, Manager of State and Federal Government Affairs for 3M Company, and in various positions on Capitol Hill including as Legislative Director for former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and as a senior legislative staff member for former U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY).

Carolyn is a graduate of Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania graduating with a B.A. in Political Science. She resides in Northern Virginia with her husband and three children.
Carolyn Lee

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