WIP Episode 315 Carolyn Lee

Manufacturing has made a comeback, and employers say they are not done hiring. Do you have the skills they want?

A conversation with Carolyn Lee, president and executive director, The Manufacturing Institute

In this episode of Work in Progress, I’m joined by Carolyn Lee, president and executive director of The Manufacturing Institute, to talk about what’s behind the comeback in manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and what employers need to do to fill another 3.8 million jobs over the next eight years.

“We are at a all-time high since the Great Recession with manufacturing jobs filled here in the sector,” says Lee. “We’re just hovering at 13 million and that means we have recovered from all the jobs that were originally lost during the Great Recession and now we have gone back up all the way to the top of the mountain.”

What’s behind the resurgence in hiring?

Lee cites a number of reasons:

  • consumer demand and spending has been strong since COVID,
  • a favorable tax environment,
  • and the drive to invest federal money through the CHIPS and Science Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“From the CHIPS Act, there have been huge announcements of investment from Intel in Ohio. You have large investments being made in Texas and then a number of very large investments in Arizona. as well, and that’s just specific to CHIPS. If you look at EV manufacturing, there’s huge investments in Kansas and in Alabama and in Georgia and the Southeast,” she tells me.

Lee adds, “Not only has it been the CHIPS and the Infrastructure Bill that have driven a lot of government funding, there is a huge grants program out of the Department of Commerce, the Good Jobs Act, which came from a previous set of legislation that helped invest in job training. That’s something The Manufacturing Institute team has been working on in a number of regions including Fresno, California, Ohio, and Texas.”

She says employers continue to hire, but there are still almost 600,000 open jobs in the industry every month. Many of these jobs require tech skills.

“This is what modern manufacturing looks like. It is digital. It is digitally-enabled. If you walk up to a CNC machine, it is enclosed and all the hydraulic liquids are inside, where in years in past it looked different. We have connected factories. We need data scientists and computer scientists. We also need to have software developers and other engineers

“People say, ‘Oh, if you have those skills, you’re going to go in the tech sector.’ Well, a lot of the tech sector is the manufacturing sector, I would argue.

“In addition to those, we also need industrial maintenance technicians. The modern technology that is in manufacturing today cannot operate unless you have those high in-demand maintenance technicians and logisticians. Nothing works in a connected economy unless we have those really, really high in-demand logisticians that are helping us on the logistics side get everything where it needs to be. Not only the finished product, but all of your inputs too.

“Really, there’s something for everybody here,” explains Lee.”

In the podcast, we also spend a lot of time talking about a just-released report from The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting that says over the next eight years, the manufacturing industry will need as many as 3.8 million additional workers, many with these digital skills. The report lays out a strategy to help employers fill those jobs, particularly through investing in worker training.

Lee and I discuss what this means for the worker and job seeker and why they should consider being one of those millions of in-demand workers needed in manufacturing.

You can listen to the podcast here, or download and listen wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find it on our Work in Progress YouTube channel.

Episode 315: Carolyn Lee, president and executive director, The Manufacturing Institute
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Transcript: Download the transcript for this episode here
Work in Progress Podcast: Catch up on previous episodes here