FutureWork: Model of the Future

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As manufacturing jobs “re-shore” back to the U.S., employers are working to re-design education to fill millions of highly-technical jobs with people able to do them. Barbara Kopple looks at the work of Toyota, one of the world’s leading auto manufacturers to recreate secondary schooling in Georgetown, Kentucky, from the ground up with a goal of creating the perfect employees for their specialized needs.

Manufacturers in the United States are leading an innovation revolution, transforming the products we make and how we make them. Boasting the globe’s most productive workforce, abundant energy and unparalleled technical capabilities, our country is poised to advance the promise of manufacturing in America. Companies are creating jobs in the United States, and foreign enterprises are investing at record levels. The manufacturing economy is $2 trillion strong and supports about one in six American jobs.

The entire world wants the products of manufacturing in the United States, from internet-connected electronics to lifesaving pharmaceuticals. The only missing piece—the next generation of skilled workers who will take up the mantle of manufacturing and transform the future.

When Skill Is Scarce

Over the next decade, 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled. Even as our nation strives to get people back to work, a lack of trained workers—often those with trade and technical skills—leaves most manufacturing companies scrambling for talent.

This “skills gap” is a drag on the economy. A shortage of trained employees can slow the growth of our businesses and therefore our economy.

Opportunity Lost

America is failing our youth if we do not equip them with the skills required for innovative manufacturing. Manufacturing careers pay about $15,000 more than the rest of the private sector, and manufacturing can provide job security and upward mobility like no other industry.

This is good news for working families, at a time when some have lost faith in the American dream, and are questioning our very system of free enterprise.

But we should not give up; we should not lose hope. Strategic investment in education and training will carry us toward our goal.

Help Wanted

The United States can empower individuals to seize a brighter future in manufacturing by:

  • Overcoming industry stereotypes that prevent many people from viewing manufacturing as an attractive career option;
  • Enhancing education in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math;
  • Establishing apprenticeships and on-the-job training to allow employees to earn a paycheck while they grow their skills; and
  • Streamlining credentialing programs and ensuring that real-life experience counts.

Manufacturers are engaged on all fronts—to be the solution. We’re partnering with educators and community leaders on training initiatives. We’re promoting annually Manufacturing Day, when manufacturers open their doors to students. We’re working with government officials to devise policy solutions—and to bring the country together after a divisive presidential election.

Now we need America’s help. We must work together to remain true to our nation’s heritage of striving toward opportunity for all.

This story has also been shared by our partners at Time, Inc.’s Fortune Magazine and on Time.com. 

Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the largest manufacturing association in the United States representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector. He became NAM president in January 2011.Prior to his appointment as NAM president, Jay was executive vice president beginning in 2008. In 2005, he joined the NAM as senior vice president of policy and government relations. His previous experience includes serving as chief of staff to Congressman, Governor and Senator George Allen (R-VA), and a term as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

More in WorkingNation’s FutureWork series:

FutureWork: A Story of Yesterday & Today

FutureWork: “A Year Up”

FutureWork: The Olympics of Robotics

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