Manufacturing took a slide last month, according to a report released Monday on activity at America's factories, pointing to the first contraction in the sector in three years. While this is troubling for manufacturers and the U.S. economy more broadly, business leaders have also been expressing concern over a different problem: finding enough qualified workers.
Even amidst today's high unemployment levels, some 300,000 jobs are going unfilled, often because employers are unable to find men and women with the advanced math, science and technology skills that modern manufacturers need. Our combined experience in business and government leads us to believe that there is much that can be done to get companies the skilled workers they need to grow through smart, targeted collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Clearly, action is needed. Manufacturing employs 12 million people in jobs that provide pay and benefits well above the national average. It accounts for more than 10% of the country's economy and 68% of its research and development investments. Keeping the sector healthy is critical to the country's overall well-being. Yet, as globalization has ramped up international competition and technology has revolutionized the shop floor, many of those 12 million jobs have changed dramatically.