Washington, DC, -  A recent U.S. News and World Report article discusses the nationally recognized problem facing manufacturers: finding skilled workers to keep up with industry growth, especially as the current manufacturing workforce ages. There is a loss for young talent. “Most companies recognize they need to really have a pipeline built before that retirement crunch hits,” said Gardner Carrick, vice president of strategic initiatives at the Manufacturing Institute, a research arm of the National Association of Manufacturers. “What we’re seeing today is kind of a dry run for what we’re really going to have to deal with five to seven years down the road.”

A new Accenture study for the Manufacturing Institute describes a growing skills gap in the industry. More than 75 percent of manufacturers surveyed reported a moderate to severe shortage of skilled workers, and more than 80 percent reported a moderate to severe shortage in highly skilled manufacturing resources. In addition, many manufacturers plan to increase U.S.-based production in the next five years, intensifying the skills gap.

In addition to a lack of training and an aging workforce, companies are beginning to move operations back to the U.S. instead of overseas. This is boosting the domestic manufacturing industry, increasing the need for a skilled U.S. workforce. “In exchange for cheap labor, you get a lot of other costs, poor infrastructure, corrupt government, little or no regulations,” Carrick says. “And not to mention basic transportation costs. Floating things across the Pacific takes time and money.”

Manufacturing jobs create economic opportunity and can help with the growing problem of income inequality. “Manufacturing is basically what built the middle class in this country from 1900 to 1950s,” Carrick says. “If we could add 2 million more jobs to manufacturing that would both mean 2 million more families making middle-class wages. Manufacturing has the strongest multiplier effect in terms of investment of jobs in the region … [so] the more we can add the better, the stronger the middle class in any given region.”

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