Building America’s Tomorrow

The Gathering Storm

There were many things that made America great – the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, Equality, Freedom, Religious Liberty. But an often overlooked factor in the ultimate success of our nation has been our industry. From the very beginning, Americans have been very good at making things. We have not only invented the products and machines that move our society, from our earliest days we have perfected the manner of production that made those manufactures available to the common man throughout the world.

In time, that manufacturing prowess led to the “arsenal of democracy,” “wheels for the world,” and a host of other grand developments that literally reshaped the geo-political landscape and provided new opportunities for millions of people in every corner of the globe. Manufacturing invented the “middle class.” It led to the very structure of an eight hour workday and a five day work week. It led to the development of suburbs, towns and cities that became the envy of the world.

But today, that system of manufacturing is facing a crisis that has deep ramifications for our America’s future economic stability and national security. The crisis is simple: as we have grown more and more sophisticated in our manufacturing techniques, all too often our educational system and public perceptions have failed to progress at the same rate. Manufacturing development has far outpaced the development of a skilled workforce able to adapt to the new technological realities of modern manufacturing endeavors. According to one study, there are between 600,000 and 1,000,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States that remain unfilled because the skilled workers to do those jobs cannot be found. That number is projected to grow to more than 2 million in the next several years. And some have predicted that as Baby Boomers exit the workforce, unless we refocus our national priorities, up to 10 million well paying, highly skilled jobs will go unfilled in the United States in the next ten years alone.

Of equal importance, ongoing cultural biases against skilled trades and misperceptions about the true nature of modern manufacturing has discouraged next generation workers from pursuing manufacturing careers. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation captures the outdated viewpoint that many share:

“Some assert that manufacturing industries are ‘old economy’ and that it is a reflection of failure, not success, if a country has a manufacturing sector that is either stable or growing. Perhaps they are thinking of the kind of factory represented in old movies, television shows or news clips: dirty, clunky, mechanical havens with low and moderate skilled workers producing commodity products. They would be well-advised to visit the clean, streamlined, IT-driven manufacturing facilities operating in the United States today. The new facilities use advanced technologies and employ moderate and high skilled workers to turn out advanced products, from jet aircraft, computers, advanced instruments and vehicles to sophisticated chemical and biological compounds.”

This new and disturbing trend against manufacturing will have significant long-term ramifications for our economy and, in fact, our way of life as Americans.


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