The Impact of Manufacturing, STEM, Transportation & Logistics – Public Perception is Changing
The real impact of manufacturing is often lost on the general public. Manufactuing fell off as a talking point for important decision-makers in local and state government for nearly two decades. An unavoidable skills gap was one catalyst for bringing the industry back into the spotlight.
Now with a pandemic raging across the United States of America and around the globe, the industry is once again in the spotlight. STEM firms, transportation/logistics professionals, and manufacturing businesses of all sizes stepped up to the tremendous challenge the world is facing and kept Americans fed and supplied. The world relied on the greatest scientists, engineers, and innovators to create, produce, and distribute a vaccine for a novel virus in under a year. COVID-19 and the response from the manufacturing industry strengthened the position that the impact manufacturing has on the nation must accelerate and not dissipate. Manufacturing made an impact, and here’s how the industry continues to be supported in New Jersey.
New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) has a Quantifiable Impact on New Jersey Manufacturing
Most New Jersey manufacturers are small or medium-sized businesses. COVID-19 was a direct threat to this industry as the lives and livelihoods of these small organizations were in question at the start of the pandemic. NJMEP had teams working day and night to ensure New Jersey manufacturing businesses would remain open and have the information they needed to operate safely. Every quarter the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) requires its Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) centers to be surveyed by an independent third party to gauge the centers’ impact on their local manufacturers. In the first three quarters of 2020, NJMEP recorded an impact of $1,128,235,302 . Manufacturers had support when they needed it most.
Manufacturing Cares and It Shows
“The economic impact reinforces the importance of manufacturing on New Jersey’s economy. While the collective impact is impressive, the services provided are essential to improving the competitiveness of New Jersey’s manufacturers.”
JOHN W. KENNEDY, PH.D, CEO, NJMEP
The economic impact is an unavoidable topic when discussing 2020 from a business perspective. What should also be included in the conversation is the local community and how it is being affected by the virus and devastated industries. “1.2 million New Jersey residents could be facing hunger this year alone.” said Debby Scheinholtz, Senior Director, Corporate Relations, and Volunteers from the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ) in a conversation with NJMEP when discussing the monies raised from the ‘Manufacturing Cares’ food drive.
NJMEP, Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ), and Employment Horizons come together to run a food drive every year. This year exemplified the importance of community outreach such as the ‘Manufacturing Cares’ initiative.
When layoffs spiked at a jaw-dropping rate, the demand put on foodbanks was unimaginable. Couple the monstruous increase in demand with the dramatic end of volunteer groups and there could have been an absolute catastrophe on the horizon. However, thanks to the great work by the amazing people at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Fulfill NJ, and all the organizations that came together to help support them, millions of meals were provided to those that needed some support.
The ‘Manufacturing Cares’ food drive raised over $100,000 in 2020 alone. For every $1 donated, 3 meals can be provided to a hungry individual. In 2020, over 300,000 meals were able to be distributed as a direct result of the ‘Manufacturing Cares’ food drive. Manufacturing, academia, government, and the local community came together to help those facing the most disruptive economic symptoms of COVID-19. This is an impact that cannot be overlooked.
Education and The Skills Gap – Workforce Development is Key
An impact recorded during NIST surveys is new or retained jobs as a result of engaging with an MEP center. In New Jersey it was recorded that projects generate 3,400 new jobs or helped retained those jobs in the first 3 quarters. The massive skills gap that is slowly beginning to be bridged thanks to work by programs like the ProAction Education Network™ and workforce development grants like GAINS and PACE help bring manufacturing to the forefront.
Programs like NJMEP’s Registered Apprenticeship program, Project 160, and Open Enrollment offerings are vital to create a real impact on the working population of New Jersey. The average salary for a full-time manufacturing professional is over $92,000 according to the 2020 Manufacturing Industry Report. Giving people the skills they need to take part in an incredible and fulfilling industry is just another step forward that was still possible to take in 2020.
Undeniable Impact on All Fronts
All of these impacts came at a time where it was unclear if any businesses would be allowed to remain open and operating. NJMEP worked with the Governor’s office to ensure all manufacturing is considered essential in New Jersey. Instead of having to close for the first four months of the pandemic, New Jersey manufactures were able to remain open and do their part in keeping the supply chain strong. Many of these businesses even retooled and began producing personal protection equipment (PPE) to help dig the country out of its severe PPE shortage.
Manufacturing showed its true colors during this crisis. The public’s interest and understanding of the industry continues to increase. The businesses recording the above impact are responsible for many of the achievements that continue to mount in the fight against the deadly disease.
Through continued innovation, the ability to remain agile and opportunistic, while at the same time thinking about local community positioned the manufacturing industry to continue through this unprecedented humanitarian crisis and economic disrupter. There are amazing successes that have come out of this disaster.
Manufacturing is essential. NJMEP helps support this industry through a variety of means including, training, consultatory services, the introduction to new funding vehicles and opportunities, advocacy and collaborative partnerships, and sponsoring scholarships and local food drives. Informing the manufacturing community that there is support, and they can turn to experts to help them through their most challenging production bottlenecks or operational disruptions is critical.
NJMEP only works with New Jersey businesses but there is a Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) in every state and Puerto Rico. Contact NJMEP today at 973-998-9801 or find a local MEP center by visiting the NIST MEP National Network directory.
This article first appeared in Manufacturing Matters! Download your complimentary copy of New Jersey’s manufacturing magazine, today.