How Manufacturing Can Save the Economy

girl-in-mathclassDrew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel, recently noted that manufacturing truly has the potential to help save the economy.

However, there are some key gaps that are preventing that from being able to happen. In an article for Inc., he identified some of the spots that make it difficult for manufacturing to truly, really make a difference in the U.S. economy to the extent that it can.

The problem lies in the gaps, interestingly enough. For instance, the gender gap (something we’ve talked about on the blog before), is problematic: Women represent half of the U.S. labor force, but only one-quarter of the durable goods manufacturing workforce. The education gap means that schools aren’t generating graduates “who know how to read a blueprint, who can calculate tangents, diameters, and radii so they can confirm the quality of the steel wire baskets we produce.”

Greenblatt also identifies “the policy gap,” saying that although President Obama has spotlighted manufacturing more than any president in recent memory, tax and regulatory reform that could propel the sector haven’t gone anywhere. The “training gap “ means that workers aren’t being properly trained to use high-end equipment, and “a manufacturer that can only offer what everyone else offers is not sustainable.” The “perception gap” means that many people associate manufacturing jobs as dirty, dangerous, dumb, and disappearing. Shockingly in recent surveys, 18-to-24-year olds ranked manufacturing last among where they would choose to start a career. And finally, “the growth gap”: “Manufacturing has added 500,000 jobs since the end of 2009, but more than two million manufacturing jobs were lost in the last recession and output remains well below the 2007 peak, indicating how serious the recent manufacturing session really was. To compete on a global stage, U.S. manufacturing needs policies that enable companies to thrive and create jobs.” The final gap he describes is, in fact, a mythical one: The “wage gap.” Manufacturing workers earn, on average, 22% more than the rest of the workforce.

What is the moral of all these gaps? It’s important to know that the manufacturing industry, if it’s able to make some of these gaps smaller, literally has the power to make the economy stronger and more sustainable. Luckily, Nebraska’s Leading Economic Indicator currently suggests that the state’s economic growth will be robust during the second half of the year, said Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As a state doing manufacturing well, it’s important to note that even if we can’t fix all of these gaps (the policy gap, for instance), we can play a large part in fixing things like the “perception gap,” and spreading the word about the mythical “wage gap.”

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