For the last couple years, I have been reporting on changes and challenges impacting the manufacturing sector. New technologies are changing the shape of manufacturing. From robotics to 3D printing to mobile technologies that have changed everything from supply chain management to order fulfillment, manufacturing has a very different look about it. Information technology professionals now play a key role in the ever-changing manufacturing environment, while the workforce has become much more tech-savvy. The result is a new kind of manufacturing industry – STEM-based and overwhelmingly broad.
An explosive new report from the Brookings Institution on "America's Advanced Industries" links 50 otherwise isolated industries – including 35 from the manufacturing sector and 15 more from energy and service – into one advanced industries super-sector in order to measure the real economic impact manufacturing and production in all its forms is having today.
"Technology is exploding," explains Mark Muro, a senior fellow and director of policy for the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. "Manufacturing is turning out to be a very different, much more dynamic and high technology pursuit that is at the center of all sorts of things that are going on today."
This recasting of the sector paints an interesting picture of manufacturing in the 21st century – a truly high-tech endeavor that pulls far more weight in the economy than anyone even suspected.
According to the report, every new job falling into that advanced industries sector creates 2.2 jobs domestically. That means that of the 12.3 million workers currently employed in the super-sector, " another 27.1 million U.S. workers owe their jobs to economic activity supported by advanced industries through their supply chains and their employees consumption."
"When you include both direct and indirect employment through this multiplier effect, you arrive at nearly 1/5 of the nation's economic activity attributed to this relatively modest-sized set of 50 industries," Muro notes. "Its importance is beyond arguing."
For all of the upside to the changing nature and perception manufacturing, it also underscores a critical need for a workforce with advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills and high-tech experience to drive it. While workers are well compensated in the advanced industry, the skills gap remains a huge challenge.
The Brookings report calculates that 60% of the jobs posted for the advanced industry are for STEM workers, compared to 34% outside the sector. Those job postings, it states, remain unfilled longer, indicating a major supply problem in the workforce.
The report also details a number of recommendations for the private and public sectors to address the supply problem.
For more information about America's Advanced Industries, the Brookings' full report can be found at www.brookings.edu.