SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY (December 19, 2016) – What comes to mind when you think about the manufacturing industry? Do you think of factory workers with demanding physical jobs working in unsafe conditions? Or do you think about a declining American economy with more manufacturing companies moving out of the country each year?
The answer is actually neither. In fact, without manufacturing companies, the United States would not be at the forefront of cutting edge technology, like 3D printing, drones, and virtual reality. Manufacturing is crucial to American innovation, but because of the negative stereotypes associated with working in the industry, the United States is at the cusp of a mass shortage of skilled workers and competitive advances at a global scale.
THE VERY REAL PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY – BY THE NUMBERS:
Only 37 percent of Americans indicated they would encourage their child to pursue a career in manufacturing.
Job stability and security were the most common reasons given as to why respondents would not encourage someone from a younger generation to pursue a career in manufacturing.
Because of this perception, Generation Y (individuals who are 19-33 years old, also known as millennials) ranked manufacturing last as a career choice for themselves.
Despite this, the majority of Americans – 82 percent – view U.S. manufacturing as crucial to America’s economic prosperity, standard of living, and national security.
And, 72 percent of Americans would be interested in apprenticeships at manufacturing companies, while 68 percent expressed interest in certification and degree programs. 
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
There is hope for the manufacturing industry. Although the general public believes that job stability is a major concern, trends and statistics show that this sector is growing and will continue to increase in demand.
Current projections suggest that by 2025:
- 2.7 million baby boomers will have retired.
- 700,000 manufacturing jobs will have been created from economic expansion.
This means that 3.4 million manufacturing jobs are likely to be needed over the next decade. Unfortunately, with so few individuals expressing interest in the industry, manufacturers are having a difficult time finding qualified, skilled workers for their positions. With a severe talent shortage, known as the skills gap, only an estimated 1.4 million jobs are likely to be filled. This leads to an expected 2 million manufacturing jobs being unfilled by 2025 due to the skills gap. 
While manufacturers scramble for solutions, individuals have a unique opportunity to get into an industry that is vital to America’s economy.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MANUFACTURING
According to the World Trade Organization, 80% of interregional trade is in goods, with only about 20% in services. What does that mean? Manufactured goods are necessary for trade. Without goods to trade for foreign goods, the United States has and continues to accumulate a large and growing trade deficit. Eventually, this can threaten the value of the dollar, causing imports to become extremely expensive, with the United States having little to no capacity to replace the imports.
The best way to reduce the trade deficit is to provide qualified, skilled workers for the manufacturing industry. With these workers, there are immediate results that benefit America’s economy. Particularly, for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, it creates $1.43 for the U.S. economy. Also, one job in manufacturing creates 2.91 jobs in other sectors. 
Both statistics generate from the role manufactured goods play in the service industry. They are needed as products to sell in the retail industry, as machinery equipment that ensure other industries run smoothly (think computers, airplanes, and broadcast equipment for the airline industry), and as technological advances that push our boundaries further (like the drones, virtual reality, and 3D printing mentioned earlier). Without a strong manufacturing presence in the United States, the economy could potentially falter and fail. It is a crisis that could happen as soon as 2025 with the current skills gap.
HOW THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY CAN BENEFIT YOU
Despite negative perceptions of the manufacturing industry, the employment benefits prove to be very enticing. On average, hourly wages are about $29.75 an hour for manufacturing jobs compared to $27.47 an hour for non-manufacturing jobs. The total hourly compensation (including employer-provided benefits) are $38.27 an hour for manufacturing jobs compared to $32.84 an hour for non-manufacturing workers. That equates to an astonishing 14 percent difference between manufacturing and non-manufacturing jobs. Even when you take all other factors into consideration, such as demographic, geographic, and job characteristics, manufacturing jobs still pay 7 percent more than non-manufacturing jobs.
In addition to high-paying wages, manufacturing companies are also more likely to have significant, highly-valued, employer-provided benefits, including medical insurance and retirement benefits.
Why does the manufacturing industry have such a high wage and benefits premium? In general, companies find that in offering well-paid packages, it encourages more cooperation from the workforce and minimizes turnover. It’s interesting to note that larger companies also tend to pay more, based off the efficiency theory. Essentially, workers are more difficult to monitor as company size increases, so by paying more, it discourages avoidance of responsibilities without necessitating higher levels of monitoring. 
Job safety is another factor to take into consideration. Thanks to manufacturing in previous decades, safety has only increased in the industry. With the help of robot-assistance and other technological advances, the most dangerous jobs are relegated to other machinery. And despite what individuals may say, robots will not take over jobs. In fact, with their advancement, new jobs are consistently being created to monitor and maintain the technological machinery. It just provides one more opportunity for growth in the manufacturing industry.
HOW TO BECOME A QUALIFIED, SKILLED WORKER
Statistics show that educational attainment of manufacturing workers is rising steadily. Currently, more than half of manufacturing jobs are held by workers with some education. Education, training, and certification is especially important, as it makes a worker that much more desirable to employers. 
With the right training, there are plenty of opportunities for individuals to find employment in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. The Inland Empire Center of Excellence (COE) has identified 4,350 advanced manufacturing businesses within these two counties, which have generated $24 billion in revenue and provided an estimated 96,519 jobs in one year. Over 90% of these advanced manufacturing companies predict growth and anticipate hiring more individuals to meet the expected workforce demand.
The best way to get your foot in the door is to receive the training and certifications necessary through the InTech Center. The InTech Center offers programs that help you qualify for high-paying advanced manufacturing careers in the Inland Empire at no cost to you. Several programs are beginning in January 2017, including the Industrial Electrical Pathway, Industrial Electrical & Mechanical Craft Fundamentals, and HVAC Training. Find out more about them here.
After successful completion of these programs, the InTech Center’s Career Center works with you to practice interviewing skills, develop an effective resume, and help you find a job. To find out more, attend the next InTech Center Program Orientation on Thursday, April 20, 2017, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
 The Manufacturing Institute, Overwhelming Support, U.S. public opinions on the manufacturing industry
 The Manufacturing Institute, The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing, 2015 and beyond
,  Economics & Statistics Administration/U.S. Department of Commerce, The Benefits of Manufacturing