The growing concern of quality of manufacturing and supply chain education in the United States

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Our economic future hinges on the ability to develop robust supply chains. Without them, you don’t have a competitive manufacturing sector, and without manufacturing you don’t have a strong economy.

The manufacturing sector has been one of the lone bright spots in a lengthy economic recovery. No sector creates more economic value or supports more additional jobs than manufacturing. This is reflected in the multiplier effect and it underscores why a strong and healthy economy requires a vibrant and growing manufacturing sector. And, the manufacturing workforce is a direct beneficiary of a strong manufacturing sector, as employees enjoy a 19% compensation premium compared to individuals employed in other sectors.

Manufacturing is also vital to attracting investment from overseas. Manufacturing companies in the United States are responsible for nearly half of all U.S. exports while foreign-headquartered companies now invest nearly $750 billion in U.S. manufacturing and employ over 1.6 million people.

One of the biggest challenges facing our industry today is workforce development. The fact is there is a significant shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing and the supply chain. The U.S. is falling behind our major competitors in math and science achievement, graduating significantly fewer engineers, and experiencing a major skills gap for production employees. This is at a time when manufacturing in the U.S. is becoming more complex, jobs require ever greater skills, and the current workforce is quickly approaching retirement age.

Addressing this shortage will lead to future manufacturing and supply chain advancement across the globe.

The key to manufacturing competitiveness is innovation, and that innovation is driven by talent. A skilled workforce is essential for a new era of manufacturing that is marked by highly agile, networked enterprises that use information and analytics as well as talent and machinery to deliver products and services to diverse global markets. This issue is not one that can be solved overnight, but initiatives put in place today can illuminate a path that will lead to future manufacturing and supply chain growth and innovation.

MHI has developed several programs to address the issue of workforce development starting at the high school and community college level with the MHI Technical Career Education Program (TCEP). This program offers instructional materials and real-world experience in state-of-the-art, fully-equipped working warehouses and distribution training centers.

At the university-level, the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) offers a variety of educational resources designed by educators, students and industry professionals to support material handling, logistics and supply chain education at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.

The MHI Young Professionals Network (YPN) offers networking and resources for supply chain professionals as they are beginning and developing their careers. This group helps professionals under 40 with the information and tools they need to move forward in their ever-changing roles.

The Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) recently released a video explaining the impact material handling and logistics has on the supply chain and the many different career opportunities available in this vibrant and growing industry. This video is part of an ongoing effort to promote material handling and logistics careers by MHEDA and MHI. For more information, visit MHEDA's Career Center and the MHI Career Center.

In addition, the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI), The Manufacturing Institute, and the National Association of Manufacturers has combined forces to produce Facts About Modern Manufacturing, a collection of the key facts and figures that define the state of the U.S. manufacturing industry. The Facts About Modern Manufacturing provides 65 figures showing the importance of the manufacturing sector and the challenges that our industry faces.