Has the Manufacturing Industry’s Recovery Bubble Burst?
The idea of a burst bubble is far from anyone’s idea of fun. As a child, a burst balloon typically means a scare and the end of a fun toy. As adults, we’ve unfortunately experienced the grown-up version of an economic burst in the form of the dot.com rupture and the sub-prime lending crisis that hit the housing industry. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve also seen a similar kind of activity in the volatility of the stock market.
Weathering the Ups and Downs
Over a lifetime most of us have weathered our fair share of ups and downs, but no matter when and how they occur, few of us are ever really prepared for a particular outcome. Over the last decade, the manufacturing industry has found itself on an upward trajectory that many took to calling the renaissance of the industry. Back in 2010, President Obama created a goal to double exports over the next five years. Now at that five-year mark, Bloomberg, a business news analyst, dropped some troubling information forecasting a failure of the manufacturing re-birth, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business. Bloomberg reported factory employment dipped by 27,000 in August and September. This is the lowest back-to-back month since the end of 2009. Other factors in this decrease included commodity changes, a lull in the U.S. shale industry, and the changing dynamics of the dollar.
Negotiating a Slippery Slope
Since President Obama’s push for a renewed manufacturing industry, one of the biggest hang-ups is the lack of qualified workers. The National Association of Manufacturers warned not addressing the labor gap could culminate in the stunted growth of up to half of U.S. manufacturing companies. Yet, the need for more workers is complicated by the fact that companies are simultaneously reducing the workforce in order to remain cost-efficient and productive. We say we want to draw more people into the industry but in reality there are only so many individuals that companies can hire. When efficiency is in question, companies often choose to improve with technology and hire fewer production workers.
Calling a New Generation
Despite the need for fewer individuals, there is still desire to address common misconceptions about the industry and attract a new generation of workers. One way this is happening is through events like National Manufacturing Day and Manufacturing Month in October. During these events, students and prospective employees saw first-hand how the industry is addressing the labor gap and demonstrating the new “face” of manufacturing. At a number of last month’s events, students heard directly from current employees about the day-to-day positives of being a part of the manufacturing industry from the very people who are looking to continue the resurrection of the industry.
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