Despite long-held fears that technology could one day eliminate manufacturing jobs, evidence suggests that technology may instead create job openings too numerous to fill.
Technologies powering growth in advanced manufacturing – such as artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and analytics – are likely to create more jobs than they replace, predicted Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute in the 2018 Skills Gap in Manufacturing Study. Indeed, the firm expects 4.6 million manufacturing jobs to hit the U.S. market by 2028. The real problem, it points out, is that half of all these jobs may go unfulfilled.
The clock is ticking to provide a trained workforce large enough to fill new jobs on the horizon, as well as those that will soon be vacated by retiring Baby Boomers – the generation responsible for advancing manufacturing from factory to fabrication lab. However, there is a shortage of young adults pursuing related education and training for which experts point to lingering misconceptions about the industry as a likely culprit.
“The manufacturing industry continues to suffer not just a skills gap, but also a perception gap,” said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, which commissioned a 2018 study with FloridaMakes and The Corridor Council in which less than half of respondents agreed manufacturing careers offer stability, security and good pay for their children. “Although we have a lot of work to do to shift the perception, the opportunities for our students and citizens in manufacturing continues to strengthen by inherent high wages, job availability and skill advancements.”
Students in the new Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program at Eastern Florida State College are among a new wave of talent that is willing to look beyond common misconceptions. The students receive a sweet deal – a two-year college scholarship, a paid internship and a guaranteed full-time job with the same company upon graduation – supporting Weatherman’s statement and providing incentive for just about anyone to change their career path.
“It’s really amazing to know that I have a job after all of this and get to start my career so early,” said Kate Borelli, an apprentice who helps build satellite panels at the Swiss defense and aerospace technology company, RUAG. Borelli’s family has always regarded manufacturing as “good-paying, honest work,” she explained. Growing up on the Space Coast, she was inspired early on to pursue a career in aerospace.
“I always wanted to be part of that. When I saw an opportunity, I jumped.”