American manufacturing is sometimes interpreted as being in a dire state, especially when compared to the same standards of the mid-twentieth century, when factories were thriving throughout the U.S. and jobs in the sector were abundant. It’s true that production in the U.S. has changed and our economy is very much based in service occupations, but there are still companies making things and entrepreneurs finding new opportunities thanks to technology.
This is why it’s somewhat surprising to hear that there’s actually demand for new applicants in manufacturing hubs around the country. Even in Michigan, which has made headlines due to the loss of roughly 70,000 manufacturing jobs over the last ten years, there is still opportunity for professionals in the state’s new generation of technology-driven auto manufacturing.
So how can it be true that this region is simultaneously losing employment opportunities and looking for workers? The problem is reported to be a lack of job skills in potential candidates.
For example, a special size flat washer manufacturer may have no trouble finding entry-level applicants to operate stamping machinery, but finding an experienced machinist who can create and use dies to make custom washers leaves that company with a smaller talent pool. These high skilled, higher paying jobs remain unfilled despite demand for employment.
This is where vocational training programs can bridge the gap. Trade schools and community colleges can greatly serve their regional and state employment rates when they offer a curriculum that’s relevant to opportunities in the area.
At Michigan’s Washtenaw Community College, the Advanced Transportation Center is dedicated to educating students and enabling them to build skills that are pertinent to what’s known as “auto tech”, which refers to the increasing tech elements in automotive manufacturing. For local employers, that means a wider talent pool from which they can fill skilled, in-demand positions. For job candidates, that means more opportunity for a living wage and job security in their home state.
In Houston Texas, plans to create a local tech hub has generated quite a bit of buzz for the potential job opportunities that will take root with the initiative, but local entrepreneurs are concerned with how urban manufacturers will fit into the equation. This is where local nonprofit TX/RX Labs has come in with the Equitable Innovation Conference. The special event will focus on how Houston’s tech plans can and should include manufacturers and the essential jobs they’ll bring to the Midtown hub. TX/RX Labs will also be partnering with the Good Will Life Launch program to provide vocational training for students interested in developing the skills that manufacturers seek.
These are just a couple of examples of how tech needn’t be a killer of manufacturing jobs, but instead can spur innovation and prosperity for a new generation of workers. The key factor in whether or not that happens, appears to lie with the collaborative efforts of manufacturing professionals, innovators, educators, and public advocates within a community.