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Ideas Pitched For Manufacturing Growth

By Ideas Lab Staff September 19, 2012

Thomas Hemphill, an associate professor at University of Michigan-Flint's School of Management, on solving deficiencies in advanced manufacturing skills.

Is the manufacturing sector still suffering after losing 6 million jobs between 2001 and 2009? Hemphill, a professor writing for The American, the online magazine of the American Enterprise Institute, argues that the manufacturing sector “has reemerged as a beacon in an otherwise lackluster economic recovery.” But future growth of American manufacturing for both domestic and export consumption will be based on advanced manufacturing, the article states.

Thomas Hemphill, an associate professor of strategy, innovation and public policy at University of Michigan-Flint’s School of Management, outlines ideas for improving advanced manufacturing opportunities for potential employees, which he says are available now and in the future “if industry leaders and government policymakers are able to capitalize on them.”

Still, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ jobs report for August showed manufacturing employment declining by 15,000 jobs. The decline in motor vehicle parts had partially offset a gain in July, and auto manufacturers laid off fewer workers for factory retooling than usual, according to the BLS report. Some have blamed a lack of skilled employees available for some manufacturing jobs.

Hemphill, in his article, addresses solutions to the perceived skills gap in the advanced manufacturing industry by referring to various articles and studies on skill sets and education. For example, he points to the Manufacturing’s Wake-up Call study conducted last year, which states that high schools and higher education institutions must improve vocational training and guidance to make sure students are aware of diverse career paths.

Other ideas Hemphill mention include –

  • A national Manufacturing Skills Certification System, administered by the Manufacturing Institute, which developed the credentials for advanced manufacturing in production, machining and metalworking
  • Developing geographic clusters of technology companies, suppliers, service providers and other types of businesses that help new business models to emerge
  • Addressing the issue of intellectual property protection, which Hemphill says is important in appropriating advanced manufacturing

The skills gap, therefore, could be made up by integrating technological advances and skilled employees, according to Hemphill’s article. Considering policies on skills development, manufacturing clusters and protection of intellectual property rights, the “prognosis remains favorable” for the manufacturing sector, he concludes.