3 Executives on How to Improve Manufacturing in America

August 13, 2012

If you hear something once, you might discount the idea as one individual’s observation or opinion of a situation.  But what if you hear several business leaders lamenting the same issue? And what if those who are speaking out range from a small business owner to a leader in industry? 

In this case, NCF has multiple business leaders across a wide swath of the manufacturing sector indicating that we have a problem with basic education skills, and that it is hindering the hiring process at manufacturing facilities across America. 

Bill Ermatinger, Corporate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Huntington Ingalls said the following at NCF’s recent Business Horizon Series event on Manufacturing. “Manufacturing is no longer only about repetitive effort. Rather, employees need analytical, mathematical, and engineering skills and training. To develop these skills among America’s younger generations, business leaders need to engage their future workforce today.” 

Today’s manufacturing processes are far more advanced than the days when our parents and grandparents worked on a factory floor. High school level skills, along with some additional training, might have worked back then but they don’t now.  Today’s manufacturers require and demand more.    

In a recent NCF blog post from Sandra Westlund-Deenihan, President and Design Engineer of Quality Float Works, Inc., she said: 

“There are fewer workers available today with the skills required to be productive in advanced manufacturing and the skill levels needed for workers are continually rising.  From my perspective as an employer, my industry is facing a lackluster pipeline of workers seeking to enter a vocational industry that needs a younger and more educated workforce.” 

Last week in the Chicago Tribune, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman cited the startling statistic that six out of every ten applicants for basic manufacturing jobs don’t qualify for jobs because they lack a basic education. 

Oberhalman isn't alone in his concerns. State Farm Mutual’s Chief Executive and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Ed Rust joined him in these sentiments.  Rust said that we need more people with verbal and written communication skills as well as more people who can think critically and possess intellectual curiosity.  

What if we don’t address these issues? According to Ed Rust, “The consequences of not addressing this are much greater than they appear, perhaps, today."