American manufacturing needs skilled workers
American manufacturing is not dead. In fact, it has accounted for many of the new jobs created since the Great Recession. It will not survive, however, unless it builds up a skilled labor force. Fortunately, industry and the White House are waking up to this challenge.
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Though more support for the replenishment of the skilled labor pool is needed, industry and government appear to be moving in the right direction. There are an increasing number of signs that leaders in both circles recognize the gravity of this crisis and the immediacy of the need for action.Skip to next paragraph
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President Obama recently announced a “Skills for America’s Future” initiative aimed at training 500,000 workers for advanced manufacturing jobs. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) agrees that this critical issue needs to be discussed at our nation’s highest level in collaboration with industry, governmental agencies, and educators.
This fall, SME joins the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association and eight leading manufacturing companies in a gathering of our industry’s decision makers at a summit called imX – the Interactive Manufacturing Experience. At the summit, top executives from the largest machine tool builders will collaborate with each other and with proprietors of much smaller shops. They'll work to develop solutions to the manufacturing workforce crisis and other challenges companies and practitioners face in a competitive manufacturing environment.
Manufacturing is finally being recognized as a critical component of a thriving economy. And American manufacturers are competing on a global stage like never before, but they need to rethink the way they make things. Awareness is also growing that a strong manufacturing sector starts with a skilled workforce that is focused on productivity and quality.
The question is: Will America have such a workforce?
SME is confident we can build it, but the conversations about manufacturing’s future must continue – from the shop floor to the Oval Office. They must lead to greater collaboration and increased recognition for the important role of “making things” in making America great.
Mark C. Tomlinson is executive director and chief executive officer of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), a leader in manufacturing workforce development. SME joins the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association (AMTDA) in developing the Interactive Manufacturing Experience (imX), a summit of manufacturing leaders set to chart a new course for the industry in September 2011. Follow imX on Twitter: @imXevent.