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Manufacturers need to invest in education and training

By: Frank Esposito

March 29, 2013

TAMPA, FLA. — Jennifer McNelly is absolutely certain that the days of U.S. manufacturing's importance are far from over.

"Manufacturing is the bedrock of this nation," McNelly said at the 2013 Plastics News Executive Forum, March 3-6 in Tampa. "Manufacturing jobs pay more than non-manufacturing, including benefits."

"Paying a nickel more per hour isn't the solution to the strategy," added McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute, a Washington-based trade group. "Manufacturing offers the highest multiple — for every dollar invested in manufacturing, $1.48 is added to the economy."

But the U.S. has its work cut out for it to remain a viable manufacturing location, since it has a 20 percent cost burden vs. its nine largest international competitors. And a focus away from manufacturing has resulted in 82 percent of companies saying they can't find skilled workers, and in 600,000 unfilled jobs.

"Only three of 10 parents would encourage their kids to pursue manufacturing as a career," McNelly explained. "But people always say want they want more manufacturing in their community.

"There also are fewer manufacturing education programs and fewer students pursuing manufacturing careers."

Companies can work to reverse this slide by investing in education and training, promoting a positive image of manufacturing and becoming involved in programs like the Manufacturing Skills Certification Program, which was launched in 2009 and has been endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers.

"Be the one that chooses to make a difference in your community," McNelly said.