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Archive for the ‘Statistics’ Category

Forecast + List: The Most Durable Jobs of the Future

Posted by Bert Maes on August 3, 2010

We do expect continued growth in manufacturing of a fairly modest 5% or so this year and next year — which is stronger than the overall economy. I guess there are a couple of things driving that: One is exports have done well and we expect to continue to see growth in exports. Second, there is some recovery in investment in capital goods. It’s mostly metals inventory rebuilding and replenishing factories for equipment that has gone beyond its useful life. It’s not really adding to productive capacity; it is productivity improvement and simply replacement. Investment in equipment and software is growing, but still far below 2007/2008 levels. The only way to get faster growth in manufacturing is to bump up the export share.


Energy-Efficient Automobiles
Computer Software Engineer jobs
Electrical Engineer jobs
Engineering Technician jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Computer-Controlled Machine Operator jobs
Production Worker jobs
Operations Manager jobs

Building Retrofitting
Electrician jobs
Heating/Air Conditioning Installer jobs
Carpenter jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Roofer jobs
Insulation Installer jobs
Truck Driver jobs
Construction Manager jobs
Building Inspector jobs

Mass Transit
Civil Engineer jobs
Railroad jobs
Electrician jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Production Worker jobs
Bus Driver jobs
Transportation Supervisor jobs
Dispatcher jobs

Wind Power
Environmental Engineer jobs
Iron and Steel Worker jobs
Millwright jobs
Sheet Metal Worker jobs
Electrical Assembler jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Truck Driver jobs
Production Manager jobs
Production Supervisor jobs

Solar Power
Electrical Engineer jobs
Electrician jobs
Machinery Mechanic jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Electrical Assembler jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Installation Technician jobs
Laborer jobs
Construction Manager jobs

Of course this all depends on
increased confidence of companies and consumers to invest,
healthier demand from exports markets,
streamlined permitting processes to start up exports,
a permanent favorable government business tax & fiscal policy in R&D, new technology, product development, increased efficiency etc,
easier access to low cost credit finance conditions,
and (6)
heavy & smart investments in technology-based education and export training.


Posted in Statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The aging workforce: a competitive disadvantage – the necessary actions for the manufacturing sector

Posted by Bert Maes on June 29, 2010

Daily I talk about the problems in education and the resulting catastrophes manufacturing companies are facing in the near future. But many people have to act – not only teachers and school principals. Also enterprises must take significant and necessary steps to make sure the young perceive manufacturing as an interesting and rewarding career opportunity.

A new June 2010 report “The aging workforce: responsive actions for the manufacturing sector” is showing the manufacturing company leaders the way forward.

A quick summary:

In comparison to other sectors, the manufacturing sector’s demographic profile is disproportionately composed of older workers and men. 38% of the workers is aged 40-54 year, compared to 31% in other sectors of the economy. More than others, manufacturing employers will experience a large-scale exodus of older workers in the forthcoming years. The aging of the Baby Boomer generation is likely to have a greater impact on the manufacturing sector than on other sectors.

The question is: how can enterprises attract the young workforce to counter the inevitable exit of the older workers?

The good news is that manufacturing is transforming today. Changes in technology, the use of robots, computers, programmable motion control devices, and various sensing technologies makes the industry evolve away from traditional assembly line systems towards “lean” manufacturing systems that use teams of workers to produce entire products or components, that rotate through different tasks, rather than specializing in a single task.

That means that production work in this sector can no longer rely on lower educated individuals who labor on repetitious low-skilled tasks. Machinists using machine tools such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts, in most of the cases produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. They have to use their knowledge of the working properties of metals and their skill with machine tools to plan and carry out the operations needed to make machined products that meet precise specifications. More and more employees can enjoy creative work. That is the good news, which is a significant incentive to attract new and the very best talent.

The other good news is that – while manufacturing workers have significantly less autonomy and fewer opportunities to change their work arrangements in comparison to workers in other sectors of the economy – especially younger workers get more freedom in deciding how to perform their work and are included in decision-making activities. This evolution for sure enhances commitment and talent stability.

The bad news is that working in manufacturing tends to be tiring work. Two in three middle-aged employees in the manufacturing sector – reported that they come home from work too tired to take care of their household chores at least several times a month.

More bad news is that in comparison to other sectors, workers in the manufacturing sector have less access to career progression and promotion programs and fewer options in terms of where, when, and how work is to be performed. All generations express a preference for access to flexible work options. That would increase business effectiveness and productivity. Likely, some rigidities stem from the imperatives of the production process, which can prohibit work off-site, work part-year, reduce work hours, choose work shift etcetera. But still…

On the other hand the authors of the report find evidence that enterprise size strongly predicts the availability of flexible options. One in four small manufacturers (those employing fewer than 100 workers) established flexible work options to a moderate or great extent, a rate that was two to three times higher than medium sized and large sized employers. For young people those small job shops look like the most promising career starts.

And a last – critical – observation is that manufacturers especially have difficulties in

  • recruiting competent job applicants,
  • finding new employees with satisfying operations skills levels,
  • absenteeism,
  • morale,
  • finding employees skilled in management,
  • legal skills
  • and sales/marketing skills.

Teachers of technical schools and parents are the people that can make the change in these skills and attitudes happen.

The manufacturing sector appears to be at a competitive disadvantage without education that leads the world, without redesigned human resource practices to the expansion of flexible work options, and without forward-looking employers…

Posted in Policy, Solutions, Statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The 25 factors that underpin manufacturing competitiveness (US, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia)

Posted by Bert Maes on June 25, 2010

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According to a new report access to talent that supports innovation is the key factor driving global manufacturing competitiveness, well ahead of traditional factors such as cost of labor and materials and energy policies.

In the 2010 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, a joint report from Deloitte’s Global Manufacturing Industry group and the United States Council on Competitiveness, manufacturing executives identify talent-driven innovation as the most important competitive driver.

The quality and availability of skilled production workers, scientists, researchers, engineers, and teachers, who collectively have the capacity to continuously innovate and improve production efficiency, is the most significant driver of manufacturing competitiveness, the report says.

Talented people are giving companies the greatest potential for making a company innovative and for improving the overall competitiveness of the country. The capacity of a country thus largely depends on the quality of its education and training.

The quality of talented people is driving manufacturing innovation. Coupled with the costs of labor and materials and the costs of energy, these three are the “foundations” of manufacturing competitiveness.

After the key factors of production – labor, materials and energy – government forces have the most significant impact on manufacturing. These include environmental, institutional and infrastructural elements.

It is interesting to see the differences across continents:

  • Talent-driven innovation is the top driver of manufacturing competitiveness across global regions. The exception is Mexico and South America, where executives rate the quality of the physical infrastructure (roads, ports, electricity grids, telecom) as the most important.
  • European executives view energy costs and policies as the second most important driver. The European Union faces serious challenges concerning security of supply as the dependence of several member states on one single gas suppliers (Russia) makes the continent very vulnerable for shortfalls in supply and energy crises. So clearly manufacturers in Europe see the availability of cost-effective alternative energy as key to competitiveness and the springboard to leapfrog competing regions of the world. However a common energy policy in Europe is very controversial as many nations see access and sources of energy supply as too critical to national security and should remain under the control of member nations.
  • In the US between 50 and 60% of the respondents considered major current policy trends as very disadvantageous: (1) the bail outs that hinders competition and does not benefit business over the long term, (2) the corporate taxes making US manufacturers pay 18% more on taxes, natural gas, employee benefits and pollution abatement than a foreign competitor making a similar product, and (3) the increasing costs of healthcare that will stifle manufacturers’ ability to grow and create jobs.
  • In China on the other hand the lack of access to healthcare and insurance is seen as very disadvantageous, as that is a major contributor to poverty in China. Low levels of insurance coverage have resulted in high savings rates and reduced consumption – key determinants of economic growth. China’s leaders recognize that they need to improve the equity and efficiency of the healthcare system, which plays a critical role in the economy.

Overall the study concludes that difficulties in accessing an empowered talent base are likely to contribute to the United States and Europe becoming less globally competitive in the next five years.

…Time to act towards attractive, inspiring and advanced manufacturing education…

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Harvard: “rapidly growing countries are those with large manufacturing sectors”

Posted by Bert Maes on June 4, 2010

Gustavo Lopez ( asked me two weeks ago if I “have any stats (hard numbers) on what role manufacturing plays on successful economies”. I had to tell him that I haven’t… until today.

I just found a study with lots of references from Dani Rodrik, a Harvard professor with unconventional thoughts on economic development and globalization, showing convincingly that historically rapid growth is associated first and foremost with the expansion of industrial manufacturing activities of the exportable kind.

He is coming up with empirical evidence that places manufacturing development in the driving seat of economic growth and development. “Industrial upgrading is a leading indicator of economic performance,” Dani Rodrik says.

An example: compare East Asia with Latin America.

  • In 1965, the manufacturing industries of the two regions were of roughly similar size, accounting for around 25% of GDP.
  • By 1980, manufacturing’s share had risen to almost 35% of GDP in East Asia, while it remained still slightly above 25% in Latin America—a difference of 10% of GDP.
  • And since the late 1980s, manufacturing has experienced a precipitous decline in Latin America, falling to a low of 15% by 2004. Probably the major reason for failure is that the continent got economically liberalized too soon. These countries often still remain poor because they are not producing the kind of goods that will carry them towards riches. Their manufacturing base didn’t have the chance or incentives to reach a sufficient momentum.
  • At the other side of the world, the broader manufacturing base that East Asian countries were able to build—and maintain—is an important structural difference with all others.

Of course Asian countries reformed their economies using unconventional practices as protectionism, direct inducements, export subsidies, preferential loans, huge training programs, special economic zones, competitive real exchange rates, etc. But… there might be important costs to be paid of such activities in terms of foregone growth over the longer term (here I give you a hint). But we will see about that.

Anyhow, Dani actually states literally that “rapidly growing countries are those with large manufacturing sectors.” Manufacturing is the engine of economic growth. Growth take-offs and accelerations are linked to the performance of manufacturing. Up-breaks are associated with increased manufacturing employment, while down-breaks witnessed declines in manufacturing employment.

A country with a broad-based manufacturing sector is more likely to take advantage of new opportunities than one which has specialized in a few primary-based products. The manufacturing field is far denser and flexible than the natural resources, garments or primary agricultural product sectors. Manufacturers can easily shift from producing A to also producing B, a product that is close by, and vice versa.

As such, manufacturers help the economy tremendously not just by pulling resources into higher productivity activities, but also by making future structural changes and spillovers easier, as key to economic growth overall.

As always… under certain conditions:

  • Picture: Haas Automation Inc.

    Key is a quicker and more creative productive diversification over an increasing range of manufactured goods into more sophisticated, technically-demanding activities. China has been a master in this: absorbing technology from abroad, develop them further and diversify its exports, starting with low unit-value goods to learn and experiment, to eventually get a foothold in the goods that the richer countries produce.

  • Learn how to do new things, new economic activities, not to focus on what one already does well. That is the issue with the current defensive policy if bailouts when it is not linked with durable results, fixing structural issues and real added value, focused on innovation and modernization.
  • Manufacturing needs a kick off by entrepreneurs (and sometimes the state) who decide to undertake the investments needed to get an industry going.
  • But they depend on the government to create the basic conditions of an attractive country: financial stability, a smart labor market, taxation policy, a modernized health- and pension policy, higher investment in R&D, a policy that improves private innovation and spillovers, agencies that serve as one-stop shops for all of the necessary permits and regulatory approvals, etc.
  • These entrepreneurs also look for government coordination in facilitating the development of economic clusters in which various complementary companies, educational establishments, governments, entrepreneurs and financers work together practically and share know how and resources. That is the true source of innovation!
  • But… how are we supposed to innovate when we are turning out lawyers and accountants while Japan, China and India are graduating engineers? Exactly that is the weakness of any manufacturing system in the world: supply of human resources and brain power. You might have got the right ideas, you have lots of money, but without the right people that work hard, that take initiatives and that have enjoyed top quality high-tech manufacturing education, you will not make it. A strong economy is routed in a strong educational system.

A important concluding remark, however, is that the ideal manufacturing policy doesn’t exist, there is no magic formula or simplistic stories, as truth has many aspects and facets. The Chinese view is not necessarily bad. I believe that every great ideal has its counterpart that is as great to achieve.

Fording a river by feeling for the stones with the feet”, is the only solution philosopher Isaiah Berlin said; being modest and persistent, experimenting, “feeling in the dark what is comfortable, honest and just determines your next step.

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The 7 Skills We Should Teach in Technical Education

Posted by Bert Maes on May 18, 2010

We are far from recovery, but I believe it is smart to think today about what will happen in three years.

A new survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), among 694 employers, collectively employing over 2.4 million people, or 8% of all those in employment in the UK, has revealed that the demand for people with high-quality skills and qualifications will intensify.

The CBI report, entitled ’Ready to grow: business priorities for education and skills’ shows 7 clear priorities for technical education.

The past few years, employers just wanted to survive. Now step-by-step, our companies are focusing again on strategies that will improve their productivity and performance.

Employers recognize that all public spending will be under pressure in the years ahead. But, that is what makes it all the more important that resources should be used to best effect.

So what are the skills manufacturing companies are looking for to be able to continue to play a significant role in our economic recovery?

  • Already today, 65% of the UK employers in manufacturing struggle to find the technical talent they need. 77% of the manufacturing employers are not confident of being able to recruit highly-skilled staff in the next three years. As a result the focus of education should be on intermediate and higher-level skills.
  • Two thirds of the employers (65%) believe gaining practical work experience is the most valuable step young people can take to improve their prospects. 71% of businesses believe that providing high-quality practical education and work placement is the best strategy to help encourage STEM study.
  • 70% of the employers want to see a stronger focus on employability skills. 57% of the surveyed people are unhappy with young people’s self management skills – being able to accept responsibility in the workplace and manage their time effectively. 68% of the employers are dissatisfied with young people’s business and customer awareness, i.e. having a basic grasp of customer satisfaction, profit and loss and other key drivers for business success. Also teamwork skills (34%) and problem solving (analyzing facts and creative thinking – 44%) are seen as major areas of dissatisfaction.
  • 63% want to see improved essential skills of literacy and numeracy. Half of respondents express concern about the basic literacy skills (52%) and numeracy skills (49%) of their current workforce. These skills include composing coherent written communications, or working through basic arithmetic and percentages, such as calculating change or working out a discounted price. Concerns about IT skills are higher still, with 66% of the firms expressing concern.
  • Achieving improved performance in business depends on leadership and management capabilities in an organization. 69% see better leadership and management skills as a strategic priority, with high growth expectations for these roles in the next three to five years.
  • Over two thirds of the employers (71%) are not satisfied with the foreign language skills of young people and 55% perceive shortfalls in their international cultural awareness. The UK companies especially demand skills in French (49%), Mandarin/Cantonese (44%), German (34%), and Spanish (32%). Thus, the trend towards internationalization in technical education should be reinforced.
  • Employers are ready to build partnerships with schools to achieve their long term goals.  They especially are looking for cost-effective routes for delivering training, which include online programs, in-house training where possible, and especially specialized training focused on those areas and activities yielding the best return (pointing again for the pressing need of high-level skills taught in our education).

What are the subjects that would be most likely to lead to a job?

42% of the surveyed companies say young job seekers should pick business studies, while 21% suggest Maths was best for career prospects and 13% said English. Psychology and Sociology were at the bottom of the list of requirements.

>> Dear reader: my thesis is that manufacturing education should try to integrate the newest technologies, good maths, leadership skills and several languages. What is your take?

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Posted in Policy, Solutions, Statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

How to recruit and retain young manufacturing talent?

Posted by Bert Maes on May 3, 2010

Today, 81 percent of American manufacturers say their biggest problem is finding technologically skilled workers.

The issue is related to the image of manufacturing and the quality of education.

But couldn’t it be linked as well to how some manufacturing companies are organized? Are you doing enough to make jobs and careers come alive for the best and brightest manufacturers of the future?

84% of the youngsters born between 1982 and 2000 is very ambitious. So the work content and workplace have to be organized according to some key elements young people need:

  • How Millenials see themselves

    Constant new challenges, new experiences and new ideas.

  • Continuous learning opportunities, being stimulated intellectually; master their profession, grow and advance.
  • A clear and transparent evaluation process with strong, accountable, explicit individual performance goals connected to inspiring long term perspectives of the company.
  • Cutting edge, high quality equipment they can work with. Young people expect the same high quality equipment at work (or in the classroom) as they have in their homes and daily lives.
  • Relevant end-products, with practical use for their own lives; young people don’t want their time wasted.
  • How other generations see Millenials

    A positive impact on the world: they want to make a difference from day one, they want to be engaged in conversations, they want to being asked for their opinions, they want to be listened to and influence their organization.

  • A supportive quality company culture: they want to have fun and excitement! Best is building great teams and promoting connectivity with high-quality colleagues. Isolation and lack of mentoring are particularly acute source of dissatisfaction.
  • They are aware very aware of today’s ecological and social challenges. As a result most are highly concerned with the health of the planet. A perfect approach to recruit young talent is explaining them the link between your CNC work and green technology creation.
  • A good balance between work and their private life; most of all they want to have enough time for their friends, passions, hobbies, volunteering etc

>> Dear Reader: More ideas?

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The Formula to Keep the Aviation Industry Strong

Posted by Bert Maes on April 1, 2010

Boeing is in the news. The aviation industry definitely seems the branch to watch. But the challenge we face is significant.

The global powerhouse of aviation manufacturing is (believe it or not): Kansas, USA.

50% (!) of the world’s general aviation is manufactured in Kansas. Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna Aircraft, Hawker Beechcraft and Spirit Aerosystems plants are all located over there. The region offers the largest aviation supplier base in the world. Boeing is one of those many manufacturing icons still made in the USA.

So, clearly, the aviation industry powers the wide economy. Manufacturing is the leading industry for Kansas. Aviation manufacturing is still the # 1 net export in the United States, with 60% of the world’s aerospace sales. So there is an impressive potential as the industry grows.

Currently, there are 36,500 aerospace manufacturing jobs in Kansas, and another 142,350 jobs are supported by aviation directly or indirectly.  The business is booming, BUT… Boeing already reported that by 2015, 40% of the aircraft maker’s workers reach retirement age.That’s some 60,000 employees eligible to retire in five years. We just don’t see the recruitment pipeline meeting our needs”.

Peter Gustaf confirms that 27% of the Kansas aviation manufacturing workforce is eligible for retirement, 40% over the next 5 years. Over 1,000 workers are needed in 2010, with an additional 1,000 expected each year for the next 10 years. 12,000 people alone are needed for retirement replacement. This suggests that we need 25,000 skilled workers

The formula for aviation’s continued success is clear, according to Peter Gustaf:

  • Strong aviation companies and suppliers

  • World leader in aviation research (via the Wichita State University’s National Institute of Aviation Research(NIAR))
  • Strong work ethic
  • Access to potential workforce

So the top strategic priority in Kansas is now: technical training to ensure a skilled workforce and competitive skills.

That is the reason why The National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) has been developed, offering:

  • Training programs to meet the changing needs of employers, learners and families in the region;
  • Training in a real-world environment that prepares them for high-tech work in general aviation manufacturing, and aircraft and power plant mechanics;
  • Training in a world-class training facility with cutting edge technology to meet industry needs, as new technologies require new skills and extensive re-training;
  • Training as a one-stop solution for flexible and customized education to meet business needs to the best aviation maintenance technicians, composites technicians, aerostructures technicians and machine technology specialists,…to name a few.

Initiatives like this, using a “business-driven” model of technical training, will be key to keep our economic drivers going and to maintain and enhance quality of life. Don’t you think so??

Posted in Policy, Solutions, Statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

10 ways to attract women to manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on March 25, 2010

After publishing the popular blog post “ways to enhance teens’ interest in manufacturing” a reader pointed me to a specific key problem we are facing today: attracting women to manufacturing. That is indeed a great topic to write about.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are widely regarded as critical to be competitive in the global economy. Just over 4% of the workforce is employed directly in science, engineering, and technology. This relatively small group of workers is considered to be critical to economic innovation and productivity.

So, expanding and developing the STEM workforce is a critical issue for government, industry leaders, and educators. A key challenge is attracting women to manufacturing. Men continue to outnumber women. The difference is dramatic, with women earning only 6,7% of bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering. In a 2009 survey only 5% of the girls said they were interested in an engineering career. But…attracting and retaining more women in the manufacturing workforce will maximize innovation, creativity, and competitiveness.

The report “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” (by the American Association of University Women), bringing together eight recent research conclusions, addresses why there are still so few women in manufacturing, despite the fact that women in engineering tend to earn more than women in other sectors; despite the fact that many STEM careers can provide women increased earning potential and greater economic security.


It is a psychological belief in our culture that … women lack the aptitude to succeed in STEM fields.

Hearing or sensing such thoughts and misconceptions in the immediate environment is affecting individual career choices! It is simply breaking down girls’ self-confidence in their math and science ability.

Many girls believe that they are “not good” in math and engineering, because they just notice in our culture that women in manufacturing careers are inappropriate. It is a societal expectation for girls to consider future education and careers in the humanities, life and health sciences or social sciences rather than engineering fields. A survey with more than a half million people from around the world has shown that more than 70 percent of the test takers associated “male” with science and “female” with arts. The idea that girls aren’t good at science is simply floating in the air we breathe. This is how we prevent girls and women from pursuing engineering. Such implicit beliefs directly influence parents’ decisions to encourage or discourage their daughters from pursuing science and engineering careers.


First, girls today are even earning slightly higher grades in math and science! However, the false belief that girls are not as capable in math and science as boys actually lowers girls’ test performance. To avoid failure, girls simply avoid math and science altogether. If girls do not believe they have the ability to become an engineer, they will disengage from STEM as a potential career and choose to be something else.

  1. When schools, workplaces, the home environment and individuals send the message that girls and boys are equally capable of achieving in math and science, girls are more likely to assess their abilities more accurately, are more likely to succeed and are more likely to see manufacturing as a viable career choice.
  2. Teachers have to learn the girls in their classrooms that intelligence is changeable, developed through effort, dedication, persistence and challenges. The more teachers and parents can show self-improvement (and not inherent ability) as the road to genius, and the more they can help girls to enjoy that effort, the more confident, the more interested and the more excited they will be.
  3. Manufacturing skills are perfectly acquirable for girls. Math skills, but especially “spatial skills” (such as mental rotation of objects, mechanical drawing, sketching multi-view drawings of simple objects) is seen as essential to success in engineering, because these skills are needed to interpret diagrams and drawings. It is a fact that in “spatial thinking” men consistently outperform women. Many girls leave their engineering education, frustrated because they can’t cope with this aspect. However, a practical training course in “spatial skills” improves the average scores in such tests from an average score of 52% before taking the class to 82% after taking it. Offering this kind of training in middle school or earlier will make a big difference in girls’ choices. They will be more likely to develop their confidence and consider a future in a STEM field.
  4. Those spatial skills are also developed by encouraging children to play with construction toys such as Legos, take things apart and put them back together again, play games that involve fitting objects into different places, draw, and work with their hands. This actually gives an immediate, strong engagement and intense connection with engineering from an early age. In fact, according to Bayer, interest in engineering begins early childhood, i.e. by age 11!!

Second, many girls are not interested in manufacturing, as too often the training programs are focused on the machines, the technical aspects of programming, and not on the broader applications. As a result many girls leave their STEM education early in their school careers. 60% of a Bayer survey of 1226 women cited that the school is the leading place where discouragement from pursuing a STEM career happens. According to 70% elementary school teachers play a bigger role than parents in stimulating and sustaining interest in engineering.

  1. Teachers (and parents) forget to project manufacturing specialists as people making a social contribution, as people beneficial for society, as problem solvers of some of the most vexing challenges of our time— tackling global warming, providing people with clean drinking water, developing renewable energy sources, designing many of the things we use daily—buildings, bridges, computers, cars, wheelchairs, and X-ray machines. That expansion of the field makes manufacturing more meaningful. Curricula have to be redesigned with adding introductory courses that show the wide variety of manufacturing applications and career opportunities.

Bayer concludes that the top three causes/contributors to underrepresentation in STEM include

  • Lack of quality science and math education programs  (75%),
  • Persistent stereotypes that say STEM isn’t for girls or minorities (66%)
  • Financial issues related to the cost of education (53%)

Dr. Julie Martin Trenor concludes there are still many barriers for women:

  • Confidence in math/science abilities
  • Poor math preparation
  • Lack of K-12 engineering courses
  • Lack of female engineering role models (90% know an engineer) or few role models available in the public eye. Engineers are rarely portrayed in prime time television, unlike lawyers (in Law & Order) and Doctors (in Grey’s Anatomy, E.R., House)
  • Parental encouragement
  • Peer pressure to go into “popular” programs
  • Negative messages, gender-biased attitudes exist everywhere


Job satisfaction is a key to retention of women in manufacturing. Female STEM specialists express lower job satisfaction than do their male peers. This lower satisfaction leads to a loss of talent in manufacturing. In high-tech companies, more than 41% of their female employees quit their jobs (compared with only 17% of their male employees) by midcareer – about 10 years into their careers.

  1. Isolation and lack of mentoring are particularly acute source of dissatisfaction. For women in STEM good professional and personal interactions with colleagues, management interest in their professional development are critically important for women.
  2. The ability to balance work and family responsibilities also contributes to overall satisfaction. For many women in manufacturing it is difficult to just pack up and go home, as they see that as deadly for their careers. Many women have the impression that to be successful, they have to achieve exceptionally high levels to be noticed among all those men. It is important to create reasonable work schedules and to not penalize women for reduced productivity while having young children.
  3. Child care is a huge issue in this. Establishing universal, high-quality child supports work-life balance and is critical to female job satisfaction.
  4. When a woman in manufacturing is being successful, she is immediately judged as cold, pushy, too macho and not charming enough. When a woman is clearly competent in a “masculine” manufacturing job, she is considered to be less likable. The big problem is that being disliked appears to have clear consequences for evaluation and recommendations about reward allocation, including salary levels, ie. their overall career outcomes. So in the manufacturing industry, women have to do MORE than men: they have to be competent ànd tough ànd understanding ànd concerned about others ànd helpful ànd increase her employees’ sense of belonging, etcetera. There is a need for fairness of evaluation: clear criteria for success, clear rules about advancement and transparency in the evaluation process.
  5. Expose local school students to the female employees in your company, who can describe the lives of female engineers, who can talk about the people-oriented (away from the antisocial geek image) and socially beneficial aspects of engineering, who can help students see their struggles in class as a normal part of the learning process rather than as a signal of low ability… who can show girls that female engineers can be successful. You can find a few examples in our section “Women in Manufacturing

Bayer and Dr. Trenor conclude that the leading workforce barriers for female manufacturing specialists include

  • it is harder for women to succeed in their field than it is for men (70%)
  • managerial bias (40%)
  • company/organizational/institutional bias (38%)
  • lack of professional development (36%)
  • no/little access to networking opportunities (35%)
  • lack of promotional/advancement opportunities (35%)
  • Isolation
  • To attract women to manufacturing the field and profession should be socially-conscious, application-driven, and team-based.

Posted in Solutions, Statistics, Women in Manufacturing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

12 manufacturing icons still “made in the USA”

Posted by Bert Maes on March 18, 2010

The post A look at 12 All-American icons that are now manufactured on foreign shores” drove me slightly crazy. The truth has always many different aspects and perspectives.

It is true: some iconic brands no longer carry the “Made in the USA” label.

BUT did you know others are still here and are even coming back from Asia??

  • Memory-module producer AVANT TECHNOLOGY recently opened a new 50,000-square-foot plant in Texas, because they will be able to deliver quicker to clients and don’t have to pay the high freight costs of shipping goods from China.
  • WIND TURBINE PRODUCTION will be hard to source offshore since these parts are often large (high transport costs/time), complex (think skilled machinists – not minimum wage workers), and involve advanced technology – much of which is (or will be) developed in the US.
  • CATERPILLAR Inc. is considering relocating some heavy-equipment overseas production to a new U.S. plant: a weak U.S. dollar makes it costlier to import products from overseas ~ shipping costs, complicated logistics, and quality issues.
  • U.S. BLOCK WINDOWS Inc. came back the U.S. With the costs and complexities of the inventory and lead times, there really wasn’t any savings.
  • LITTLE TIKES, producer of the ride-along toy car Cozy Coupe, manufactures in the USA using highly specialized equipment and cost-effective robotics automation allowing to produce its big toys with relatively few workers. In addition, the fact that the manufacturing operation is just steps from his office makes it easier for the company to quickly respond to the latest fads, or to make a small batch of a specialized toy.
  • American factories continue to churn out hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods annually — everything from FORD trucks and BOEING airplanes to GORDON & SMITH surfboards and VIKING appliances. U.S. plants also still produce, assemble or manufacture tons of fertilizers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, computer chip components and specialized industrial machine parts.” (msnbc)
  • Emerging companies such as NANOSOLAR Inc., which is riding a wave of demand for “green energy” equipment, as well as established firms such as INTEL Corp. are investing billions in U.S. production facilities. IBM established a cluster of high-tech research labs and production plants. (
  • High-value items, such as medical devices and semiconductors, are made here because their complexity requires highly skilled workers and close coordination with designers and engineers. Mostly missing from the US manufacturing landscape are familiar consumer products such as toys, apparel and home electronics.” (msnbc)

CONCLUSION: China’s manufacturing industry is becoming less competitive. Today manufacturing is being re-shored back to the western world:

  • Chinese manufacturers have trouble in guaranteeing their US and European customers accurate delivery dates because of unforeseen delays in the supply chain;
  • Chinese manufacturers will have more difficulties to make quick changes in the manufacturing process – Without a strong workforce (China has to close down production lines because they lack a skilled workforce for their factories!), it will be harder for them to quickly customize products;
  • The risks involved with a supplier in China get bigger. Western manufacturers have begun to pull their supply chains back closer to their markets, closer to their customers – which are asking for custom-made solutions and just in time delivery.
  • If you’re buying stuff from overseas, will you get the services you need??

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Engineers have best bachelor salaries!

Posted by Bert Maes on March 17, 2010

Top-Paid Bachelor’s Degrees

Engineering disciplines dominate the list of top-paid bachelor’s degree:  eight of the 10 most highly paid degrees, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Major Average Salary Offer
Petroleum Engineering $86,220
Chemical Engineering $65,142
Mining & Mineral Engineering (incl. geological) $64,552
Computer Science $61,205
Computer Engineering $60,879
Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering $59,074
Mechanical Engineering $58,392
Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering $57,734
Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering $57,231
Information Sciences & Systems $54,038
Source: Winter 2010 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers. Data represent offers to bachelor’s degree candidates where 10 or more offers were reported.

The average starting salary reported for bachelor’s degree graduates as a whole is $48,351.

While a variety of factors play a role in determining salaries, new graduates with degrees in the technical fields tend to benefit from their relatively low supply. There is more competition for their skills, driving up their salary offers,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.

Candidates with technical degrees have a serious advantage in the job market!

Even stronger:

The Research Report of PricewaterhouseCoopers: “The economic benefits of a degree” found that the value of an engineering diploma is huge, as

over their lifetime people with engineering qualifications earn more than all other graduates, apart from medicine and dentistry specialists!

So if your goal in life is (1) “earning a lot of money” and (2) “making a real difference in the world“, I have only one advice: START A CAREER IN MANUFACTURING.

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What parents should know about manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on March 8, 2010

Post by Mike Gugger, Manager, Consulting Services

I hear it every day and from almost every client I visit – “I can’t find good talent.

I’ve got three responses to this complaint:

  • first, its our fault;
  • second, “baby boomers” strike again;
  • and finally, there are sources for these skills.

Let’s start with “It’s our fault.”

Most of the young people I speak with have no idea that there are highly technical, good paying, career opportunities in machining and manufacturing.

Almost all of the parents of those kids tell me that they don’t want their kids to go into machining, to which I ask, “Why not?” and I get a I get a variety of answers ranging from, “it’s dirty and hard work” to “there are no jobs in manufacturing, they are all going overseas” to “I don’t know anything about machining. What kind of jobs are there?” to my personal favorite, “I don’t want my kid doing what I had to do – I want him to go to college!

So you see it is our fault.  As parents, we are misinformed, uninformed or have a severe bias and misunderstanding of the potential in the industry.

  • When I hear, “It’s dirty and hard work,” that tells me that this person has not been in a factory for over twenty years or more. Machining and manufacturing are no longer the dimly lit, dirt floor, Draconian hell hole of the past. In fact, machining has more computer content then almost any other industry, has more of a lab environment then a factory and the jobs are well-paying, career positions (as opposed to just a job).
    Related post: an example of the current Third Industrial Revolution in manufacturing
  • Lastly, but certainly not least, is the “I want my kid to go to college” excuse.    That’s a fine dream, but does your kid want to go to college? Do his/her interests and future aspirations depend on a college education? The current statistics are sobering.  Over two-thirds of college students don’t finish a four-year degree in four years and if you extend it to six years, the percentage improves only moderately – to 58%! Would it not be better for these students to attain some work experience – i.e. seasoning as an individual – that provides marketable skills and financial security from which can blossom into a wide array of opportunities in the future?  “No!  My kid’s going to college!”  For what, to fail?

So you see, it is our fault and I have a challenge to all parents – learn, educate yourself and your children in the career opportunities that exist in today’s manufacturing.

An eye opening post – Thanks, Mike!

The coming week he will be posting about the effect baby boomers are having on manufacturing. Looking forward to that!

>> I discussed the importance of parents (and especially the mothers) very briefly with blogger Ryan Pohl (Change The Perception). He said:

Mothers do have a great deal of influence over their children, especially in their early formative years. I have three young children myself, and my wife in constantly encouraging them to build and create using their imaginations, as opposed to conquering the latest level on a video game! We can already notice the difference in cognitive abilities, and creative abilities between our children and their peers who have less time to be creative.

My children can choose whatever path they desire for life, but hopefully with this approach they will always value making THINGS!

As parents, we always try to do the very best for our kids and provide opportunities that will help them mature into intelligent, capable adults. Innovative thinking and nurturing our creative spirits is essential for success in school and in life. So it is our job as parents to nurture our kids’ creativity.

And what is better to accomplish that than encouraging our kids to MAKE (i.e. manufacture) THINGS?

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China’s manufacturing industry becoming less competitive

Posted by Bert Maes on February 28, 2010

Have you read my article: How Manufacturers Can Compete With Low Wage Countries?

Last Friday New York Times, elaborated on one of the crucial aspects: workforce education.

My point of investing in education for more skilled workers (as a crucial competitive advantage as our high labor costs are directly linked with insufficient focus on manufacturing education) is being supported:

China is facing an increasingly acute labor shortage. The country is running out of fresh laborers for its factories. A government survey three years ago of 2,749 villages in 17 provinces found that in 74 percent of them, there was no one left behind who was fit to go work in city factories — the labor pool was dry.

Some manufacturers, already weeks behind schedule because they can’t find enough workers, are closing down production lines and considering raising prices.

Unskilled factory workers in China’s industrial heartland are being offered signing bonuses. Factory wages have risen as much as 20 percent in recent months, giving Chinese families more spending power (probably manufacturing industry wages could double in the next five years).

However, rising wages could lead to greater inflation in China, eroding some of China’s formidable advantage in export markets. The prospect of rising wages suggests that companies with high labor costs could experience margin pressure. Such increases would most likely drive up the prices for all sorts of Chinese-made goods, to import in the United States and the European Union.

This reality of Chinese talent shortage a.o. will re-shore manufacturing back to the western world, according to Mike Collins, Author, Saving American Manufacturing:

  • Chinese manufacturers have trouble in guaranteeing their US and European customers accurate delivery dates because of unforeseen delays in the supply chain;
  • Chinese manufacturers will have more difficulties to make quick changes in the manufacturing process – Without a strong workforce, it will be harder for them to quickly customize products.
  • The risks involved with a supplier in China get bigger. Western manufacturers have begun to pull their supply chains back closer to their markets, closer to their customers – which are asking for custom-made solutions and just in time delivery.
  • Harry Moser, chairman emeritus at Agie Charmilles points to the “costs of regulatory compliance, potential intellectual property loss, visits to overseas vendors, potential product quality problems, high foreign wage inflation and carrying extra inventory as cushion against late or damaged shipments.” (
  • Challenges in manufacturing offshore are legion, Brian Bethune – a chief U.S. financial economist – said. Infrastructure can be undependable, including frequent electrical brownouts in some regions of China. Manufacturing is often plagued by quality problems, rendering products unfit to sell in more sophisticated markets. Language and cultural barriers pose difficulties. Negotiating governmental expectations and hurdles, especially in China, is a huge issue. (

China might be less competitive in the coming years; however, and that doesn’t surprise me at all: the Chinese government is rapidly reacting, with expanded postsecondary education. Universities and other institutions of higher learning enrolled 6.4 million new students last year, compared to 5.7 million in 2007 and just 2.2 million in 2000.

This reality of Chinese talent shortage will re-shore manufacturing back to the western world:

· Chinese manufacturers have trouble in guaranteeing their US and European customers accurate delivery dates because of unforeseen delays in the supply chain;

· Chinese manufacturers will have more difficulties to make quick changes in the manufacturing process – It will be harder for them to quickly customize products, without a strong workforce.

· The risks involved with a supplier in China get bigger. Western manufacturers have begun to pull their supply chains back closer to their markets, closer to their customers – which are asking for custom designed solutions and just in time delivery.

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80% (very) satisfied in manufacturing sector

Posted by Bert Maes on February 18, 2010

How Satisfied Are You With Manufacturing as a Career Path?
(% of response)

2010 Survey 2009 Survey
Very satisfied 35% 35%
Satisfied 45% 45%
Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied 14% 14%
Unsatisfied 5% 5%
Very unsatisfied 1% 1%

What Matters Most To You About Your Job?

Job Stability 31%
Base Salary 18%
Recognition of Your Importance to Company 14%
Career Advancement Opportunities 11%
Company’s Recognition of the Importance of Manufacturing Operations 7%
Benefits 6%
Flexible Schedule 4%
Relationships with Co-Workers 4%
Continuing Education/Training 1%
Interesting Challenging Work 1%
Other 3%

QUESTION: This survey is conducted with 1,259 US manufacturing managers. How are the WORKERS on the manufacturing job shop floor feeling these days?? Any info on that, readers??

What Matters Most To You About Your Job?

Job Stability 31%
Base Salary 18%
Recognition of Your Importance to Company 14%
Career Advancement Opportunities 11%
Company’s Recognition of the Importance of Manufacturing Operations 7%
Benefits 6%
Flexible Schedule 4%
Relationships with Co-Workers 4%
Continuing Education/Training 1%
Interesting Challenging Work 1%
Other 3%

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Economic Crisis in Spain and Greece, Illustrated

Posted by Bert Maes on February 11, 2010

I can’t help but notice that the downsizing of the manufacturing industry in Greece & Spain and the poor performances in manufacturing education are undoubtedly part of the picture in the current economic and financial crisis in those countries.

Many governments around the world are facing higher national deficits and implied higher levels of national debt.

Spain, Portugal and Greece are three countries with large and sustained current account deficits. The enormous debt levels being created at the moment will haunt the country citizens for many years to come. (In Belgium, where I live, the macroeconomic indicators are in only marginally better shape than those of Greece and Spain!)

Any real improvement will depend on economic growth. All countries should somehow encourage rather than strangle economic growth over the next few years.

Things have to start with MANUFACTURING.  Spain’s (and Greece’s) problem, Illustrated:

(Source: Paul Krugman)

And with manufacturing EDUCATION: a SWOT analysis for the Manufacturing Engineering sector in Greece

(source: IRMA Project)

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Ways to enhance teens’ interest in manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on February 10, 2010

Many believe the key to strengthening the economy and competing globally lies in fostering an innovative culture and educating  youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

According to this year’s Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, an annual survey that gauges Americans’ perceptions about invention and innovation, teens are enthusiastic about these subjects, with 77 percent interested in pursuing a STEM career.

Some tips for STEM education to engage youth ages 12 through 17:

  • Hands-On Learning outside the classroom is the best way to get them interested in STEM careers:

    • Field trips to places where they can learn about STEM (66%)
    • Access to places outside the classroom where they can go to build things and conduct experiments (53%).

  • Teachers play a powerful role in exciting teens about STEM

    • More than half of teens (55%) would be more interested in STEM simply by having teachers who enjoy the subjects they teach.
    • 43%said that role models in STEM fields is crucial in teens’ motivations and would increase their interest in learning about these areas.
    • A large majority of respondents wished they knew more about STEM in order to create or invent something (85%).
    • Many might be discouraged from pursuing professions in these areas due to a lack of understanding of the subjects or what people in these fields do, and the societal impact that STEM professionals have (51%). This further illustrates the need for teachers and mentors in these areas.

= We have to offer kids QUALITY: the best teachers and the best technology!



Another survey, conducted on behalf of the American Society for Quality shows similar findings:

  • Kids don’t know much about engineering — 44%.
  • They don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills — 21% — to be good at it.



The US National Science Foundation projects a shortage of 70,000 engineers in 2010. However… Engineering is a strong career choice:

There will always be a need for future engineers – not just in existing companies, but also to start new companies that provide the world with the next great innovation. Manufacturing is the backbone to our economy. When manufacturing is strong, our economy is strong. Manufacturing is strong when it produces products and technology that help to improve lives.

* Engineers make a world of difference.

* Engineers are creative problem-solvers.

* Engineers help shape the future.

* Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.

* Engineering is a satisfying profession that involves creative ideas and teamwork.

* And don’t forget the good salaries! Earn more than the rest…


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The Manufacturing Sectors of the Future

Posted by Bert Maes on February 8, 2010

The U.S. manufacturing economy shifts away from heavy sectors, such as automobiles and basic chemicals, toward higher-tech products like super-fast computer chips.

The restructuring now under way offers insights into what kinds of goods the U.S. should produce, and in what volumes.

Semiconductor makers saw U.S. demand recover sharply as computer makers scrambled to catch up with a pickup in business investment toward the end of 2009.

Intel, which produces chips in Chandler, Ariz., Rio Rancho, N.M. and Hillsboro, Ore., boosted its capital investments to $1.08 billion in the fourth quarter, part of a two-year, $7 billion program to upgrade its U.S. plants.

Many companies still prefer to produce semiconductors in the U.S., particularly if their manufacturing is highly complex. Being close to the U.S.-based design centers of major chip users like computer maker Dell Inc. and consumer-electronics maker Apple Inc. also can be an advantage.

Texas Instruments Inc., the second-largest U.S. chipmaker will spend almost $1 billion this year to expand three factories and open a fourth to fill orders. The company is also hiring 250 workers to open a new chip-manufacturing plant in Richardson, Texas, that will eventually employ 1,000. (

This is a kind of manufacturing that will make sense to do in the U.S. for a long time to come,” said Tim Peddecord, chief executive of privately held memory-module producer Avant Technology, which recently opened a new 50,000-square-foot plant in Pflugerville, Texas.

Manufacturing in the U.S., Mr. Peddecord said, allows it to turn around U.S. orders in 24 hours, an advantage in an industry where demand is volatile and clients try to keep inventories low. In addition, the reduced freight costs, compared with shipping goods from China, can offset the added cost of U.S. labor, since labor accounts for less than a hundredth of his average sales price.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Disorganized classroom leads to unprofessional behavior

Posted by Bert Maes on February 5, 2010

Clutter can actually cripple your performance, according to a recent survey on workspace organization.

According to the survey, clutter can lead to many unprofessional situations, with a large number of respondents reporting

  • lost time (47 percent)
  • meeting tardiness (16 percent)
  • and missed deadlines (14 percent)

Margot Sterns reorganized her office from what she called “chaotic and out of control” to a structured work environment that runs faster and smoother than ever.

As a result of the new system, Sterns says she’s saved more time, which has allowed her to take on more clients. She’s even has increased her profits by more than 20 percent. “I do believe [getting organized] is worth the investment of time and money, because what you get back, I think makes it more than worth it,” Sterns says. “Getting rid of all that stuff really made a huge difference in my life.”


  • Adequate illumination: when a building gives you a ‘bad feeling’, it is often because of the poor lighting quality. Enough daylight & light sources brighten up the space and make the students feel more comfortable. Big window glasses help to make the internal environment as pleasant as possible.
  • Color: The underlying principle for all renovations including painting is KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. Keep color schemes simple, use neutral, pale, cream colors. Grey and white colors reflect light better and make rooms appear bigger. These colors give the space a clean high-tech appearance. The areas will feel efficient, harmonious and consistent. The colors help to create a setting that is welcoming and inviting.
  • Adequate ventilation: create a healthy environment with as low as possible air pollution.

    A good example of an attractive classroom - Bäckadalsgymnasiet Jönköping SWEDEN

  • Comfort: the building should feel nice to be in – bright and attractive – a contemporary feeling.
  • Clean: eliminate clutter, towards a brighter and clearer environment
  • Stimulating: stimulate the senses – add a few eye-catching features, such as colorful modern accents which stimulate, motivate & impress the students.
  • Impact: A school ideally looks and feels good. It makes a strong, individual impression, a strong character, that it isn’t just bland and boring. Help the student to like to be inside of the building, by giving the space a personal, high-quality and fun touch which distinguishes the school from others. Pay attention to details to inspire young minds!
  • Mood: Every aspect of the room you create must maintain the same sleek, modern, sophisticated look. Mood refers to the general look or feeling you want the room to express. The color schemes, furniture, window treatments, floor treatments and lighting styles etc. must all be consistent. Elements have to work together to form a visually pleasing cohesiveness.

DEAR READER, How does your classroom look like? Do you have got more tips for motivating, inspiring learning environments for your students?

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Top drivers for future business success: CNC manufacturing specialists

Posted by Bert Maes on February 4, 2010

A summary of the highly interesting report “People and profitability, A time for change – A 2009 people management practices survey of the manufacturing industry” by Deloitte, Oracle & the Manufacturing Institute

Manufacturing companies were asked to describe the current availability of qualified workers in specified workforce segments:

  • 32% reports moderate to serious shortages today.
  • 38% of all respondents foresee increased shortages ahead, especially in the manufacturing sectors Aerospace & Defense, in Energy & Resources and in Life Sciences & Medical Services.

    (Example: the biomedical industry is thriving well despite the recession (although it faces unprecedented challenges due to a.o. the educational funding crisis.
    The fastest-growing occupation—with a 72% growth — is biomedical engineer. Biomedical engineers help develop the equipment and devices that improve or enable the preservation of health. They’re working to develop tomorrow’s MRI machines, asthma inhalers, and artificial hearts.)

  • The main shortage will not be seen in unskilled labor, but in skilled production, such as machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians. 51% (!!) reports serious shortages today, the vast majority of whom see increased shortages ahead.

  • Boeing – one of the US’s biggest manufacturers and exporters – said that by 2015, 40% of the aircraft maker’s workers reach retirement age. “That’s some 60,000 employees eligible to retire in five years. We just don’t see the recruitment pipeline meeting our needs.

    About 19% of US manufacturing workers are 54 and older, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, only 7% of manufacturing workers are under 25 years old.

    It’s difficult to find people for assembly, machining and motor-winding positions – jobs that require maths skills and the ability to read technical blueprints,” said Ron Bullock, owner of Bison Gear.

    Workers are delaying their retirement because of the financial crisis. But, as the economy recovers, a large number of skilled workers will leave. “As we go through the recovery, the situation will get worse,” said Lisa Simeon, a director of the US industrial conglomerate, “and restrict companies’ ability to step up production as the economic recovery gathers pace“. (Source: The Financial Times Limited)
  • The top 3 drivers for future business success
    (1) New product innovation (requires talented workers)
    (2) High-skilled workforce (correlated to higher profitability)
    (3) Low-cost producer status

The report concludes that People Management Practices will have a high profile role in the growth of the Manufacturing Industry: How will the requisite skills and capabilities be sourced, developed, engaged and deployed??

TIP: Another good read on this subject:  “SOS Shortage of Skilled Workers: A comparison of the European Metal Industry and Electrical Industry

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Best way to tackle growing unemployment = Keeping manufacturing in your country

Posted by Bert Maes on February 3, 2010

A recent GALLUP poll finds that Americans think the “best way to address the problem of growing unemployment in the United States [is] … to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S.”

The top prescriptions for creating more jobs are

  1. keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S. (18%)
  2. lower taxes (14%)
  3. provide more help to small businesses (12%)
  4. create more infrastructure work (10%)
  5. reducing government regulations on business (7%)
  6. creating more green jobs (6%)
  7. providing more federal stimulus funding (4%)
  8. and implementing more pro-“buy American” policies (4%)

Many Americans see protectionism and tax cuts as ways to create jobs. I will not do any political statements here. But what I experience daily is that EDUCATION will be key to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S. or in any other nation:

A leading incentive for offshoring is ‘race for talent’… IBM has built a new research center in Shanghai, China, because of the rich pool of science and engineering talent in China… [READ MORE]

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Is struggle to find highly skilled workers most pressing issue facing manufacturing?

Posted by Bert Maes on February 1, 2010

A retake from the article “Thought Leader — Help Wanted” by Josh Cable:

With skilled job openings going unfilled, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Mark Tomlinson sees workforce development as a top priority for manufacturers.

The May 2009 survey — “People and Profitability: A Time for Change,” conducted by Deloitte, Oracle and the Manufacturing Institute — found that of 779 responding companies, 51% reported moderate to serious shortages of skilled production workers today, while 36% reported similar shortages of engineers and scientists.

As the United States slowly emerges from the depths of a recession, Mark Tomlinson, executive director and general manager of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), sees the struggle to find highly skilled workers as perhaps the most pressing issue facing manufacturers.

“The [SME] believes that in the next three to five years this will be the single biggest topic we’ll be discussing,” Tomlinson tells IndustryWeek. “Once we recover, the biggest challenge won’t be the fact that we have an unemployed workforce. It’ll be the fact that we can’t fill the job needs that are available.”

Tomlinson — who has said that the wealth-creating “twin powers of innovation and manufacturing” are the keys to returning “the U.S. economy to its former glory” — points to aerospace/defense and life sciences/medical devices as two of the brightest hopes for U.S. manufacturing in the future. However, according to the Deloitte survey, a whopping 63% of companies in each of those sectors reported moderate to serious job shortages.

The crux of the issue: The recession has spawned legions of unemployed people who “need to be retrained and redeveloped so that they can become a higher-skilled workforce to support the needs of those innovative and creative companies” that will drive the economic recovery, Tomlinson explains.

“Manufacturers are looking for employees who are the opposite of the stereotypical factory worker doing repetitive, assembly-line work,” Tomlinson says. “They are in need of 21st century workers with specialized technical training such as machinists, operators and technicians.”

Tomlinson asserts that manufacturers need to evaluate the skills of their current workers, look ahead to products and technology that are on the horizon, and help workers develop the necessary skills to “transition from one sector to another as the economy continues to shift from one industrial sector to another.”

“[Companies] need to think about agility versus longevity,” Tomlinson says.

Tomlinson believes that manufacturers need to have “a sense of urgency in regards to retraining the workforce and making it easy for workers to go out and get that training.” Professional associations such as SME can help manufacturers identify their workforce knowledge gaps and facilitate the necessary training.

However, Tomlinson adds that building a more agile, technically skilled workforce also might require manufacturers to try some “nontraditional” approaches to employee development. For example, Tomlinson suggests collaborating with other nearby manufacturers to tackle the challenge from a regional perspective.

Mark Tomlinson, Society of Manufacturing Engineers

“When things are busy, there tends to be this self-serving approach of ‘I don’t want to share with anybody because I need all my workers for this,'” Tomlinson explains. “But through collaboration, you can jointly understand what’s needed for the region.”

Another nontraditional approach to workforce development, Tomlinson explains, is using certification as a criterion for employment. “This gives you a worker who, in most cases, can transition to many different manufacturing sectors.”

Last year, SME and the Manufacturing Institute (the research and education arm of the National Association of Manufacturers) announced that they are partnering to create a new skills certification system “with the potential to help millions of U.S. workers succeed in high-quality, middle-class jobs,” according to SME. The system is designed to provide skills assessments, standardized curriculum requirements and portable credentials that validate the attainment of critical competencies required by industry.

The onus for workforce development doesn’t just fall on manufacturers, Tomlinson adds. State and local governments need to play a more active role in making job training accessible and affordable to workers, he says.

“The community colleges are promoting that they have educational training available, but you don’t hear enough about, ‘Well, did you realize that you could get that [training] for free through a tax credit, a government grant or on a loan basis where you can pay it back after you get a job?'” he says. “There needs to be a more concerted effort to make it easy for the worker to get that training.”

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