Martin N. Baily of the Brookings Institute, a former Chairman of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton, and James Manyika, Director of the McKinsey Global Institute and of McKinsey & Company, co-authored a thought-provoking column "Is Manufacturing 'Cool Again?'" for Project Syndicate, a website that brings "original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere."
In the op-ed, Baily and Manyika declare "global manufacturing has the potential to state a renaissance and once again become a career of choice for the most talented." They point out that a manufacturing rebound will create high-quality jobs including "programmers, engineers, designers, robotics experts, data analytics specialists, and myriad and other professional and service-type positions."
However, the authors state that "the new wave of manufacturing technology needs a broad skills base" and warns that there is a potential shortfall of 1.5 million data-savvy managers and analysts.
The authors warn of an even greater skills gap. Money paragraphs:
"And yet, across the board, manufacturing is vulnerable to a potential shortage of high-skill workers. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute finds that the number of college graduates in 2020 will fall 40 million short of what employers around the world need, largely owing to rapidly aging workforces, particularly in Europe, Japan, and China. In some manufacturing sectors, the gaps could be dauntingly large. In the US, workers over the age of 55 make up 40% of the workforce in agricultural chemicals manufacturing and more than one-third of the workforce in ceramics. Some 8% of the members of the National Association of Manufacturers report having trouble filling positions vacated by retirees.
Indeed, when the NAM conducted a survey of high-school students in Indianapolis, Indiana (which is already experiencing a manufacturing revival), the results were alarming: only 3% of students said that they were interested in careers in manufacturing. In response, the NAM launched a program to change students’ attitudes. But not only young people need persuading: surveys of engineers who leave manufacturing for other fields indicate that a lack of career paths and slow advancement cause some to abandon the sector."
The authors point to Germany and South Korea as two countries that attract the best and the brightest to the manufacturing sector, and challenge manufacturers in other countries to "figure out how to be talent magnets." The authors conclude:
"Manufacturing’s rising coolness quotient should prove useful, but turning it into a highly sought-after career requires that companies in the sector back up the shiny new image with the right opportunities – and the right rewards."
Read Baily's and Manyika's op-ed here.
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