As we prepare to enter the last two months of 2022, I have seen some exciting trends that will impact the manufacturing community for the remainder of this year into 2023, and for decades to come. These trends will address some of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers and enable manufacturing to make a stronger contribution to the American economy for decades to come.
Here are four trends I am most excited about:
Trend #1: Innovative Workforce Development Programs
There are so many innovative programs out there to train future manufacturing workers to address the well-publicized skilled trades gap facing American manufacturing. Programs like the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ PRIME Program – which provides curriculum and equipment to high schools to train students in needed manufacturing skills – help pique students’ interest and provide project-based learning to support students in their quest to find the perfect career fit.
One of the most inspiring and innovative trends I am seeing is the customization of workforce training programs for those with disabilities to tap into a new pool of potential manufacturing talent. The Fabricating and Manufacturing Association’s Inclusion Camps, first delivered in the summer of 2022, provided fun and education learning experiences for teens with disabilities and open up an expanded group of skilled talent for manufacturers who need workers.
Trend #2: Greater Recognition of Manufacturing’s Impact at State and Federal Levels
As a 25 plus year manufacturing veteran, any day, week or month that celebrates manufacturing warms my heart. This year, Manufacturing Day was heavily publicized on social media, and there were bus tours in various states showcasing manufacturers throughout the state. One example was the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) and the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center’s “Makers on the Move” Bus Tour, which travelled to 20 manufacturers throughout the state of Illinois over three weeks in October.
In addition to state celebrations of Manufacturing Day and Month, the federal government has made a significant commitment to funding programs that help grow domestic supply chains for needed goods such as semi-conductors; expand capacity of colleges and nonprofit programs to more quickly train workforce; and bolster clean energy by supporting new and innovative American manufactured products to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate climate change. I don’t expect this trend to slow down anytime soon.
Trend #3: Technologies Connecting Job Seekers to Manufacturers
For years, manufacturing leaders have been telling me about their need for workers. In this time of low unemployment, the need has grown. While I empathize, I also know of so many great programs that connect manufacturers with workers who have a strong desire to work. These include the programs I mention above, immigrant populations, and career/technical education (CTE) program at the high school and community college levels.
While many trade associations and economic development departments have job boards, there is little to no effort to attract potential workers to these postings. Economic development organizations such as the WIOA Centers attempt to connect workers to jobs but are limited by resources such as time and manpower. There is no one to efficiently match workers with skills and a desire to work with the manufacturers who so desperately need them….until now.
Seeing this unfilled and unaddressed gap between workers and jobs for so many years led me to partner on an exciting new online product to connect job seekers with manufacturing jobs. Unira Workforce (“unira” is the Italian word for community) provides the tools and resources needed to connect manufacturers with workers. We’re currently working with workforce development centers, CTE programs, community colleges, and non-profit manufacturing prep programs to develop a qualified database of available and interested job candidates. And for a limited time, we’re offering manufacturer’s free early bird access to build a profile and take advantage of this resource. This program is being piloted in Missouri and Illinois, with plans for expansion nationwide in 2023.
Trend #4: Focus on Exposing Manufacturers to Practical Applications of Advanced Technologies
Advanced technologies, including additive manufacturing (AM) and collaborative robots (co-robots), have the potential to increase the efficiency of manufacturing process and reduce manufacturers’ need for low skilled work. Manufacturers, however, struggle to envision how exactly these new and emerging technologies best fit into existing processes and work centers.
At IMTS this year, I was excited to see hands on demonstrations of new technologies and several workshops dedicated to discussion about ways to integrate emerging technologies on the manufacturing floor. In addition, the show featured services such as those offered by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility that provide technical assistance to manufacturers to help them customize emerging technologies to their specific manufacturing needs. The more barriers that can be eliminated for manufacturers to utilize these technologies, the more likely they will be to invest in them and experience the financial benefits of doing so.
I am very excited about these trends and a future that includes workers to fill the talent gap, technologies to connect workers with manufacturers, a greater recognition of the importance of manufacturing at federal and state levels, and practical applications of new technologies to make manufacturers more efficient and productive. The future is bright indeed!