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Let’s put America back to work
Advanced manufacturing is already one of the most in-demand industries in America due to workforce retirements and natural business growth, but it’s also an industry with a severe shortage of skilled workers.
Throughout most of U.S. history, American high school students were routinely taught vocational and job-ready skills along with the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Indeed readers of a certain age are likely to have fond memories of huddling over wooden workbenches learning a craft such as woodwork or maybe metal work, or any one of the hands-on projects that characterized the once-ubiquitous shop class.
President Donald Trump, like many politicians before him, has an obsession with boosting the American manufacturing sector – a part of the job market that has largely been on the decline since the 1980s. That obsession endures among many voters, too, even though factory jobs are unlikely to return to their former glory because of increased competition from foreign exporters and increased automation.
On December 9, 2016, I revisited Workshops for Warriors to find out what had been accomplished in the past four years since I had toured the facility during their first Manufacturing Day on October 5, 2012, and met retired naval officer Hernán Luis y Prado, founder and president of Workshops for Warriors (WFW).
General Electric runs two plants in a small New Hampshire town just south of the state’s capital, employing 800 workers. GE Aviation is the largest employer in town, with skilled workers building jet engines for the world’s major airlines, reports ABC News.
When you back up a commitment with $75 million, people tend to pay attention. I’m certainly paying attention to New Skills for Youth (NSFY), the $75 million grant initiative sponsored by JPMorgan Chase to change the way we approach career and technical education in the U.S.
HIGHER EDUCATION The importance of manufacturing to our economic well-being is not a mystery to the manufacturing industry. But how can we get today’s youth to see the value of a manufacturing career?
Too many American companies base decisions about how to source manufacturing largely on narrow financial criteria, never taking into account the potential strategic value of domestic locations. Proposals for plants are treated like any other investment proposal and subjected to strict return hurdles. Tax, regulatory, intellectual property, and political considerations may also figure heavily in the conversation. But executives, viewing manufacturing mainly as a cost center, give short shrift to the impact that outsourcing or offshoring it may have on a company’s capacity to innovate. Indeed, most don’t consider manufacturing to be part of a company’s innovation system at all.
Jay Timmons was preaching to the “manufacturing” choir in GlaxoSmithKline’s sun-drenched lobby at its Navy Yard offices.
Georgia launched an apprenticeship program as a new tactic to combat a persistent problem. Even as the state struggles with a stubborn jobless rate, there’s a growing demand for highly skilled workers that remains unmet.
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