Inspiring the Next Generation: Modern Manufacturing in America

October 5, 2018

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a photo of people standing in a manufacturing facility
Photo credit Scott Varley for the National Association of Manufacturers.

Many communities across the country are joining together to celebrate Manufacturing Day today, an opportunity to bring awareness to modern U.S. manufacturing, inspire the next generation of manufacturers, and foster interest in manufacturing careers. The Energy Department would like to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the American manufacturers, the backbone of our Nation's vibrant economy, and shed new light on what a career in manufacturing looks like.

Since January 2017, the U.S. has created over 350,000 manufacturing jobs. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), optimism among manufacturers registered its second-highest level ever recorded (93.5%) in the 20-year history of a manufacturers' outlook survey. Manufacturers are modernizing their technologies, equipment, systems and infrastructure, and they are applying that sophistication to their materials and production in an effort to reduce energy costs and create jobs.

The jobs themselves are changing too. New, modern ways of manufacturing require highly-skilled workers and subject matter experts in many areas beyond the factory floor, such as mathematics and information security. This breadth and depth in skills allows modern manufacturers to remain globally competitive.

Closing the Skills Gap

While engineering-focused careers continue to lead in popularity on career ranking reports, manufacturing is slowly making its way up the list. Educational pursuits in mathematics, software development, computer information technology, and information security are great pathways to a long-lasting career in manufacturing. And manufacturing jobs are more available now than they've been in a long time. According to NAM research, more than three million manufacturing jobs will be needed over the next decade, but two million will go unfilled due to the skills gap.

Fortunately, many manufacturing companies today are employing highly-skilled talent to manage state-of the-art equipment, build specialized workflow management systems, manage software programs, visualize and analyze data to solve energy problems, and protect businesses against cybersecurity attacks.

These jobs are not just good for business, they’re good for workers. NAM reports that the average manufacturing worker in the U.S. earned more than $84,000 annually, including pay in benefits, in 2017. These workers also remain in their jobs longer than any other profession in the private sector. If a decent salary and job security isn't attractive enough, manufactures also have one of the highest percentages of workers who are eligible for health benefits provided by their employer.

Investing in the Modern Manufacturing Workforce

Developing talent is challenging, and the changing nature of manufacturing work is making it harder for talent to keep up. Through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), the Energy Department invests in manufacturers, their suppliers, and interested stakeholders to create workforce development programs that train and equip workers with the right skills to remain competitive.

AMO-funded programs such as Build4Scale, American Inventions Made (AIM) Onshore, Technologist in Residence (TIR), and the Lab-embedded Entrepreneurship Programs pair innovators and businesses with top-notch researchers from national laboratories to get fundamental manufacturing training and mentorship. Programs such as the Industrial Assessment Centers train undergraduate students on how to perform energy assessments for small-to-medium businesses, providing valuable skills they can take with them into the workforce.

We hope communities across the country will join the Department in celebrating manufacturing, and continue to work with us to ensure a competitive and secure manufacturing sector.

Check out how we are inspiring the next generation of manufacturers.

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