Planning for a Future Where Humans Work Alongside Robots

We are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, with digital technology advancing at a rapid rate. This technological change can be a great benefit for manufacturing workers if we undertake the right approach now and implement federal policies and private sector initiatives that support the future of the industry and, as a nation, we commit ourselves to developing the workforce of tomorrow.

Today, President Trump signed an executive order entitled “Accelerating America’s Leadership in Artificial Intelligence” (AI) to promote the future of this emerging technology. The executive order directs the federal government to devote itself to the research and development of AI and to share information with the technology’s developers. It also prioritizes workforce engagement to prepare for a future where AI is a regular part of business. AI will help manufacturers in America be more competitive in the global market, and it will allow people to focus on doing more advanced tasks while machines take on the repetitive tasks that workers do not enjoy.

The Manufacturing Institute (MI), the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, is dedicated to supporting the manufacturing workforce of today and growing the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow. What does that mean in a future with AI? The implementation of machines and AI onto shop floors will likely shift more manufacturing jobs to tasks that require uniquely human skills, things like creativity, innovation and design, and people will be needed to work on—and alongside—robots, coding, developing and shifting their focus to tasks that cannot be automated. Central to the future of the workforce will be helping workers develop the skills and training they need to be qualified for tomorrow’s jobs. Yes, AI will take over some of the tasks currently carried out by people, but if we properly train and prepare the men and women of manufacturing for these new and emerging modern manufacturing jobs, it also has the potential to increase productivity and create tens of millions of new jobs in the industry. This is why the MI is working to educate and excite younger students about the prospect of a career in manufacturing and to “upskill” workers through lifelong learning opportunities to bridge the skills gap and align them with 21st century manufacturing jobs.

The future is here—and with it comes the opportunity to develop a modern manufacturing workforce to support the growing and evolving industry. It will take a comprehensive effort—from the federal government, from companies large and small and from workers and communities themselves—to seize this moment and create a brighter future.

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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