As we close out 2023 and enter 2024, I see some trends coming down the pike, both with manufacturing grants and with the manufacturing sector in general. My crystal ball is in working order, so let me get to my list!
Manufacturing Prediction #1: There will be continued funding opportunities at the federal and state levels for manufacturers to invest in equipment, facilities and workforce development.
2023 was an unprecedented year (as was 2022) for grants for manufacturers to expand operations and invest in equipment. At the federal level, as funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was released as grants to support key industrial sectors (battery manufacturing, electric vehicle manufacturing and semiconductor supply chains to name a few), manufacturers in those sectors had an opportunity to obtain substantial support to grow their operations. At the state level, many states released funding to support manufacturers as they invested in new technologies and grew and trained their workforce.
Federally, there have been several Requests for Information and Notices of Funding Opportunity pertaining to manufacturing and states continue to announce new funding programs as many start their fiscal year. This leads me to believe that the trend of additional funding to support the manufacturing sector will continue into 2024.
Manufacturing Prediction #2: Manufacturers will benefit from nonprofit programs to grow their workforce.
A growing number of nonprofit organizations are offering programs to generate a pipeline of talent for manufacturers. I believe these efforts will be more embraced by manufacturers as they continue to see available workforce shrink and feel the pain of an understaffed workforce. I believe populations traditionally overlooked for manufacturing jobs, such as formerly incarcerated individuals and those with disabilities, will help supply needed workers in various manufacturing sectors.
Prediction #3: Manufacturers will more fully embrace apprenticeships.
Marketing for manufacturing apprenticeships by both states and apprenticeship consultants has dramatically increased on social media platforms in 2023. In addition, new and unique approaches to apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships make apprenticeships a more viable option for many manufacturers seeking a way to attract and retain workforce.
Prediction #4: Individuals seeking manufacturing careers will have greater options for obtaining training without a full college degree.
Many believe that a degree is needed for many manufacturing careers, but nothing could be further from the truth. Many community colleges and a growing number of high schools are offering certificate programs that can help people seeking jobs in manufacturing obtain skills needed to get entry level technical skilled jobs in manufacturing. As a result, those seeking manufacturing jobs will be able to be qualified for a good paying position in a matter of months instead of the traditional 2-to-4-year education path.
Prediction #5: Manufacturers’ adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies will continue to grow in response to a shortage of workers.
My clients are continuing to invest in automation and other technologies to reduce their dependence on non-skilled labor. And, new technologies will be more accessible to those willing to learn about them, as additional training programs become available to help companies envision what is possible if they implement technologies like machine learning and AI.
I know that 2024 is an election year, and, believe me, I have no idea how that will turn out (my crystal ball is not THAT good). But I feel confident in the above predictions, regardless of the political party in power, as efforts to support manufacturers tend to be bi-partisan and promote strong economic outcomes.