#583 – Sometimes there is good news; sometimes there is not-so-good news

Posted on | The Agurban

Sometimes there is good news; sometimes there is not-so-good news. This past week two reports surfaced that cast a dim light on manufacturing. While we believe that the number of manufacturing jobs will never be what it once was, we do strongly believe in manufacturing as a force in the U.S. economy. Below are excerpts from the two articles:

UMass Dartmouth prof: Manufacturing jobs not coming back soon to America
by Auditi Guha, SouthCoast Today, May 7, 2016

A lifelong manufacturing engineer and professor, Sherif D. El Wakil states, “People have a bad picture of manufacturing. They think of factories and noise and grease. But it’s the 21st century and we use computers now. The skill sets needed for these jobs are very different from what was needed in the ’60s and ’70s.”

America today needs manufacturing engineers and technicians, “not workers pushing a button,” says El Wakil.

Other hurdles to America’s manufacturing dream are that there aren’t even courses available and students are often intimidated by the tough subject, he said.

There are 56 colleges offering a B.S. in manufacturing engineering nationwide.

So what is the answer to America’s manufacturing problem?

El Wakil quoted Jobs: “There has to be a fundamental change in the education system to bring back some of this labor.”

The first step would be to provide more courses and more incentives like scholarships for students to take more manufacturing courses, and encourage women and minorities, El Wakil said.

Engineering is challenging, manufacturing more so. These fields are expensive, have high admissions requirements such as pre-requisites and a 3.5 GPA, often deterring potential students.

“Without enough manufacturing engineers in this country, reshoring is a dream that will not come true,” El Wakil said.


Producing Poverty: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Production Jobs in Manufacturing
by Ken Jacobs, Zohar Perla, Ian Perry and Dave Graham-Squire, US Berkeley Labor Center, May 10, 2016

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley shows that over one-third of manufacturing workers in the U.S. are on some form of public assistance. 

Key Findings

  • Overall, we find that between 2009 and 2013 the federal government and the states spent $10.2 billion per year on public safety net programs for workers (and their families) who hold frontline manufacturing production jobs. This includes workers directly hired by manufacturers and those hired through staffing agencies.
  • A third (34 percent) of the families of frontline manufacturing production workers are enrolled in one or more public safety net program. For those workers employed through staffing agencies, the percentage of families utilizing safety net programs is 50 percent—similar to the rate for fast-food workers and their families.
  • The high utilization of public safety net programs by frontline manufacturing production workers is primarily a result of low wages, rather than inadequate work hours. The families of 32 percent of all manufacturing production workers and 46 percent of those employed through staffing agencies who worked at least 35 hours a week and 45 weeks during the year were enrolled in one or more public safety net program.
  • Eight of the ten states with the highest participation rates in public programs that support frontline production workers’ families are in the American south; the other two states are New York and California.