Is there a manufacturing renaissance in America today? Depending the news source, the industry's outlook can vary from a vibrant rosy hue to an ashen gray pallor of death. There's little middle ground in the debate. But the reality is more complicated than a simplistic dichotomous split between optimism and pessimism, especially when all the facts are taken into account. That being said, the manufacturing skills gap exists and produces negative outcomes that harm the future prospects of the industry, but there are true remedies for finding solutions to the apparent shortage of experienced workers.
Are manufacturers returning to American soil?
Forbes contributor Bill Conerly recently wrote an article that explores the complexities in the reshoring and offshoring trend in the manufacturing industry. Conerly's piece looks at the next few years and forecasts that the trend toward more businesses returning operations to the U.S. will likely continue, but only in cases where it makes financial and logistical sense. For instance, manufacturers return to a geographic location where demand is highest, and won't close down a facility offshore if there's still a strong consumer market.
The Forbes article suggested chemical manufacturing facilities typify one particular kind of producer that will remain or return to U.S. shores. Much of the impetus stems from the fact that the U.S. natural gas and crude resources industry is experiencing strong growth, and these materials are often used in the manufacturing and fabrication of other products.
At the same time, manufacturers may opt to diversify the location of their operations as a risk management strategy. Conerly highlighted flooding in Thailand and other natural disasters that can have a significant impact on operations, so maintaining multiple facilities in various geographies may help reduce the risk of supply chain disruptions.
Employment a continued challenge
At the same time, finding workers with the requisite abilities to work in today's high-tech manufacturing facilities is a hurdle many organizations still have to overcome. A recent article in The Kansas City Star highlighted the fact that the job openings are there, but the talent is proving difficult to find, contributing to the manufacturing skills gap. The newspaper reported there are 600,000 vacancies in the industry's job market, but many companies aren't able to find applicants who meet the standards needed to operate technical and complex equipment and systems.
Steve Hasty, owner and president at A&E Custom Manufacturing in Kansas City, Kansas, explained there needs to be a push as early as possible to generate interest in manufacturing jobs. In the meantime, manufacturing recruiters play a pivotal role in helping businesses source skilled workers.