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The Advanced Manufacturing Workforce

Updated: Apr 30

As a Systems Engineer, I look for bottlenecks, and a bottleneck in the future of manufacturing is from a lack of highly skilled and local workforces which countries need but do not have.

Talk for the Nelson Institute

On 23-April-2021 I spoke at the Earth Day Conference held by the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where my talk covered some favorite topics.

A good talk should cover the What, So What, and Now What, so here they are for this talk:

  • What: The mass-production economy (the 2nd industrial revolution) created a century ago ended in December 2019. The next decade will determine what the next century will be.

  • So What?: We have shifted the burden of economic growth onto the planet and the global supply chain, but this now limits humanity’s growth.

  • Now What?: A sustainable world will require localized supply chains. Through Digital Twins, the world can trade virtual information about how to make products, so that the physical products can be made remotely. But for this we will need a skilled, digital manufacturing workforce.

The Manufacturing Skills Gap

The manufacturing industry lost 578,000 jobs during the pandemic-challenged year 2020 and yet nearly 500,000 jobs have remained open in manufacturing.

The National Association of Manufacturers finds that “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” is one of the top business challenges among respondents."

One of the top challenges manufacturers face today remains the skills gap in US manufacturing. Despite high post-pandemic unemployment rates, the open jobs in manufacturing are not being filled. Not mentioned in the report (but a problem nonetheless) is that 50% of manufacturing skills become obsolete in as little as 5 years.

Thus, of the roughly 14 million manufacturing jobs needed in the US by 2030, less than 12M will be filled. Of the 10M workers employed in 2020, 75% of their skills will be irrelevant in a decade. Per the report: "leaving the open jobs unfilled in manufacturing could bring a potential negative impact to the US economy of more than US$1 trillion by 2030 alone."

The Future of Work

What will jobs look like in the digital era?

The article lays out eight personas for needed skills in the advanced manufacturing workforce, including: Digital twin engineer, Predictive supply network analyst, Robot teaming coordinator, Digital offering manager, Drone data coordinator, Smart factory manager, Smart scheduler, Smart safety supervisor, UAM flight controller, Smart QA manager

Oversupply of Performance in Higher Education

IMO (and I am not alone) higher education in the US is now oversupplying performance, and is not supplying what employers need in a new workforce. Discusses student loan debt. (Also appears in Perception of Value, Jobs to be Done, and Disruption.)

A Remembrance: Emily Stover DeRocco

September 5, 1950 – July 3, 2021

Emily was Assistant Secretary of Labor for eight years in the George W. Bush administration, and later President of The Manufacturing Institute. Emily and I connected on an advanced manufacturing workforce project in Detroit, and she invited me to speak a couple of times, including the second video, below. My comments on the site set up for her obituary:

My interactions with Emily were brief, covering only a year and involving LIFT, in Detroit. But I read here about those who appreciate their long friendships with her; so much of what they write speaks to me and I realize that the warmth and passion for others I saw was part of her soul.

Emily was a terrific person, and a passionate advocate for US Veterans, and the Manufacturing Workforce, spearheading both Operation Next, which prepares military personnel for manufacturing jobs, and the Learning Lab at LIFT, in Detroit.

Rebecca Hartley of Clemson University spoke on efforts that she and Siemens were doing together. At the time I was the academic and workforce lead for Siemens PLM, and involved will the workforce efforts at the US Manufacturing Institutes.


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