• Become an SSTI Member

    As the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development, SSTI offers the services that are needed to help build tech-based economies.  Learn more about membership...

  • Subscribe to the SSTI Weekly Digest

    Each week, the SSTI Weekly Digest delivers the latest breaking news and expert analysis of critical issues affecting the tech-based economic development community. Subscribe today!

National Academies Proposes Clear Pathways for U.S. Manufacturing Workforce

March 05, 2015

While manufacturing has never been more important to the American economy, many manufacturers report that they are unable to fill positions requiring skilled workers, according to the latest report from the National Academy of Engineering. At the same time, workers and students often find it difficult to navigate the web of certifications, degrees and experience levels necessary to claim these jobs. The authors provide a number of recommendations for federal, state and local agencies, as well as employers, universities and community colleges, to build pathways to manufacturing employment.

In Making Value for America: Embracing the Future of Manufacturing Technology, editors Nicholas M Donofiro and Kate S. Whitefoot, with the Committee on Foundational Best Practices for Making Value in America, suggest that workforce policy at the federal, state and local level has been held back by an outdated view of manufacturing. In recent decades, manufacturing has become thoroughly ingrained in the value chain. Manufacturing is as important to the economy as research and development, product design or information technology, while the lines dividing these areas have become blurred. At the same time, traditional manufacturing jobs have been disappearing, due to the competitive advantage of low-cost manufacturing operations in other countries and the rise of automation.

The authors suggest that the key to reinvigorating the American manufacturing economy and boosting manufacturing employment is to better train workers to create value. Workers with the right skills can help manufacturers improve processes, pivot to emerging industries and offer new services.

The committee recommends that businesses establish training programs for their current workers that will prepare them for modernized operations. Government agencies should create incentives for businesses to become involved with local education partnerships with school districts, community colleges and universities. These partnerships can help create and market pathways to high-skill, high-quality jobs in manufacturing industries, along with opportunities for continuing education.

Other recommendations include:

  • Codifying of best practices for innovation and new teaching methods for these practices;
  • Creating of opportunities for team-based engineering experiences in middle and high school;
  • Establishing national skills certification programs with wide recognition among employers;
  • Implementing programs within businesses and schools that encourage the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups; and,
  • Encouraging partnerships among local governments, industries, higher education institutions and economic development organizations to build local innovation networks.

Read Making Value for America: Embracing the Future of Manufacturing Technology...