Friday, January 04, 2013

Manufacturing Employment IS (not) Dead in the US!

There are always going to be naysayers and those who want us to believe the negative.  While we were almost beginning to believe that all manufacturing has left or is leaving the US, we are now seeing evidence of its return - or maybe some never left.  There is also a not so quiet addition to the American manufacturing story – foreign manufacturers who are successfully finding talent and building their products in the US.


What is really interesting are the headquarters locations of some of the companies that have experienced success manufacturing their automobiles within the US for some time – BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.  With them are their suppliers.  Over one third of all cars produced in the US in 2008 were produced in US plants owned by foreign manufacturers.


Now the folks who thought all of our manufacturing was taking in place in China and India are complaining that there not enough trained workers in the US to re-shore manufacturing here.


There are times we need to be careful what we say – and what we ask for.  If enough people are fed that propaganda long enough, they will believe it.  Then we may really have problems.


The evidence shows that there are manufacturing jobs in every state.  Obviously there may be states where there are more experienced manufacturing talent or states where there is a greater need for experienced people for manufacturing jobs.  This is not an unusual situation in other industries.  Remember Software Engineers in Silicon Valley in 1999/2000?  I was out there recruiting for a client then.  It was a free for all.  Did the need for more software engineers end that growth?  No, more likely it was the fact that there were more poor business plans than lack of experienced software engineers that caused the Dot Bomb.


Where do we go from here?  Somehow Honda has found experienced workers in Ohio since 1982.  They produce a popular and quality Honda Accord there.  Subaru builds their quality Outback in a zero landfill manufacturing facility in Indiana.


We need to get manufacturers in high schools to begin to discuss the new clean and well lit manufacturing facilities and whet the students’ appetite for these jobs.  Let them know there is a future career in manufacturing.  Get into Community Colleges and make them aware that manufacturing is alive in the US.


Recruit out of areas that have excess manufacturing talent.  People will move if they find the right job and find housing.  Work with technical and community colleges to create training programs that train both recent high school graduates and previously experienced workers for work in production facilities.  During the telecom boom in the 1990’s, Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, Kansas created such a quality telecom outside plant training program that there were often more recruiters than graduates from their program (I usually got my share!).  Many of their students were not traditional students.  They were experienced in other fields prior to attending Northwest Kansas Technical College.


Work with these schools to create manufacturing training programs like the one I mentioned above.  It could become your own minor league development location until other manufacturers learn about it.  If your production facilities use Lean/Agile, this training could include all aspects of eliminating waste and continuous process improvement.  Possibly create a certification program that enables workers to work and get paid while learning new skills.


Take a look at this website"target”_blank”   As of December 31, 2012 BLS table U6 shows that over 14% of all workers are unemployed or underemployed.  Are there potential manufacturing professionals in those 23 million people out of work?  With that kind of potential source of candidates, I would love to recruit production workers for a client with a Lean/Agile production facility!


Work with your state’s economic development and workforce development groups to create the training needed; and let’s get workers back to work – and more manufacturing back in the US!  Every time one person finds a new job, our economy improves.