The American public has been misled for years on the realities on how our manufacturing sector has evolved; ever focusing on the larger plants that have closed, but ignoring the many small- and mid-sized firms that have grown in their place and added significantly to the versatile impact that these companies make every day.
Many continue to decry that other countries (like China) have surpassed based purely on the price of the goods, but that is not the entire story, yet it remains the only one told, so here goes a different story:
- The most recent data (2014) states that manufacturers contributed $2.09 trillion to the US Economy (12 percent). A figure that has risen steadily since 2009.
- For every $1 dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.37 is added to the US Economy, which is the highest multiplier-effect of any economic sector.
- Manufacturing supports approx 18 million private-sector jobs. Nine percent of us are directly employed by manufacturing and each manufacturing job supports (at least) four others.
- The average U.S. manufacturing Worker makes $77,506 annually (N.J. = $91,890); whereas the average in all other industries make $62,546.
- U.S. manufacturers are the most-productive in the world, and No. 1 in quality, as well.
- Three quarters of all private-sector R&D in the U.S. is performed by manufacturers.
- Taken alone, manufacturing in the U.S. would be the ninth-largest economy in the world.
(This info was taken from: National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Monetary Fund and additional data from the United Nations/International Labour Organization.)
Does any of this surprise you? Does this seem like a dead industry?
That brings me to my home state of New Jersey where there are over 10,000 manufacturers and STEM-support firms (engineering, logistics, service/maintenance, etc), employing over 300,000 people, and producing $46 billion in output that equates to 8.5 percent of our GSP. However, ask most anyone; government, education, other industries/our industry, and (even) parents — what would you hear about us as a viable career choice?
To me it is time to stop talking about ’what was’, and begin speaking of ‘what is’ and ‘what will be’ in terms of manufacturing in New Jersey.
The reality is that we can only do this together, and that includes many of us in the manufacturing/engineering/tech field leaving our comfort zones and stepping up to be heard … individually and as a group. This doesn’t mean that we need a program that exists on negativity, but we do need one that focuses on the strength of the New Jersey manufacturing industry and what it will take to keep it ‘healthy’; which includes:
- An educational system that ensures that all graduate with solid basic skills in math and language.
- Make ‘career readiness’ a key focus; yes, one has to appear consistently, on-time, and ready to go each day to retain a job.
- Realistic understanding of what it takes to develop in technical and highly skilled fields like manufacturing, because while 8 to 16 week courses are important; one to two year apprenticeships and engineering degrees are even better.
- Stop considering those that chose a technical or trade education as somehow ‘less-than’ those that go to college. You have to be ‘good with your head’ before you can be ‘good with your hands’.
- Continue to work together as a State and as an industry to provide consistent and effective training to enhance incumbent workers chance for career growth, and to educate those to enter a job sector that pays well and provides security.
Lastly, as mentioned, it is also time for all of us involved with the manufacturing/technical industry to step up and remind people that we are here, and that we’re not going anywhere.
So, I offer a simple, initial challenge to every New Jersey manufacturer to take a moment and reach out to introduce you and your company to your mayor, to you state senator and assembly member, and to your congressman. Make a call and/or send an e-mail and tell them who you are, what you do, and how many fellow New Jerseyans work at your company; then invite them to visit.
It’s hard for us to continue to complain about being heard; if we choose not to speak up.
John Kennedy is the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, responsible for setting the strategic direction of NJMEP as well as business development, sales, strategic implementation partners and new initiatives. Kennedy has a long history in manufacturing, both as a senior executive and owner. He earned a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from LaSalle.
Click here to see the original article published in NJBIZ.