Industry Market Trends
Viewpoint: Manufacturing Is Cool. Really.
August 6, 2014
- There's a shortage of workers. This is not breaking news. More importantly, there's a dearth of younger workers. According to ThomasNet's Industry Market Barometer (IMB), an annual survey of buyers and sellers of products and services in the industrial market, three-quarters of manufacturers reported that 25 percent or less of their workforce is in the Generation Y (Millennial) age group.
- We need to educate those who make the grossly incorrect assumption that U.S. manufacturing is dead. Manufacturing accounted for about $1.9 trillion, or almost 12 percent, of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2012. I'll agree, though, that U.S. manufacturers can't be complacent. We need to work hard to remain competitive with other countries.
- The United States is falling behind in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). We need to stem the tide. It's up to all of us - parents, the educational community, and those of us in industry - to encourage the pursuit of manufacturing careers.
- Women are a minority in manufacturing. Yes, I saved the best worst for last. A 2013 study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte highlighted that while women represent nearly half (46.6 percent) of the total U.S. labor force, they only comprise a quarter (24.8 percent) of the durable goods manufacturing workforce, citing numbers by Catalyst Research.
I'm tired of being the odd woman, and it's time to change this. One step in the right direction is the STEP Ahead initiative, sponsored by the Manufacturing Institute, in collaboration with Toyota, Deloitte, the Apollo Group, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. The program focuses on research, leadership, and recognition of women in manufacturing. So what can you do? For starters, share this column with your colleagues. Discuss these issues in your companies, at your industry association meetings, and with your vendors. Don't get me wrong. It's not all negative, and there's plenty about manufacturing that I love. My decision to follow in my father's footsteps truly changed my life for the better. Actually, that is misleading. I call it charting my own course in the manufacturing world, and my father would agree. My goal with this column is to bring the issues to light. I do not claim to have all the answers. Instead, I hope that all of us can collaborate and work toward resolutions. Are you with me? Top photo credit: artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net Karen Norheim is vice president of marketing and information technology at American Crane & Equipment Corp. Founded in 1972 and a privately held company with headquarters in Douglassville, Pa., American Crane is a leading manufacturer of cranes, hoists, and other material-handling equipment, as well as components and parts for standard, custom, and nuclear applications.