By Jay Timmons
“Co-bots” are collaborative robots engineered to work alongside and in concert with human workers. Like augmented reality and artificial intelligence, they are just one example of the stream of technological breakthroughs that are transforming the modern manufacturing shop floor—allowing manufacturing workers to accomplish tasks once thought impossible and to do so more safely than ever before.
Yet, the emergence of such technology has led some to wrongly assume that jobs for manufacturing workers are in short supply. In reality, the opposite is true. Last year was the best year for manufacturing hiring growth nationally since 1997. In Colorado, manufacturers had roughly 47,500 job openings in 2018, especially in the beverage, computer and electronic products, food, machinery and transportation equipment sectors.
Modern manufacturing is high-tech, but it’s people that make it all possible—the 12.8 million men and women who make things in America. Prospective employees can be skilled and ready for many of these jobs after months of training, and on average, Coloradans working in manufacturing out-earn those in other professions. According to the most recent data, Colorado’s 142,000 manufacturing employees—from coders to craftsman to designers—had average annual pay and benefits of $74,629, compared to $47,313 across all industries.
Manufacturing jobs will continue to open for the foreseeable future. A recent study from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, reveals that manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs in the next decade. They predict that we will only have enough qualified workers to fill less than half of those jobs if more people don’t start joining our industry.
And they should. Modern manufacturing jobs give people the chance to build something that matters—from the fuel that powers our lives to lifesaving medicines, from the latest smart devices to the rockets that will take humans back to the moon and onward to Mars.
So today, in Colorado, the NAM is launching our 2019 State of Manufacturing Tour. We will travel the country over the next two weeks telling the story of modern manufacturing, saying “Creators Wanted”—and promoting the promising opportunities that Americans of all ages have to build a rewarding career in our industry.
We will also be calling on our elected officials to ensure that nothing holds back manufacturing’s progress. We know there will be economic headwinds. But we can reach our full potential by advancing policies that uphold the values that have made America exceptional: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
For example, manufacturers want to see final approval of the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement, as well as a trade deal to hold China accountable and secure relief from costly tariffs.
Americans deserve 21st-century infrastructure, so manufacturers are advocating major investments in our roads, bridges, ports, waterways, pipes, pipelines, electric grid and airports—as well as development of communications infrastructure like 5G technology.
We want to help find a real solution to the humanitarian crisis that is the immigration situation. We need a permanent and updated legal immigration system—to protect families, Dreamers, our economy and our national security.
And we are calling for an end to baseless lawsuits against manufacturers from trial lawyers and municipalities, including some in Colorado, who are trying to get rich quick on the backs of manufacturing workers.
When we make progress on these fronts, it will set manufacturers up for even greater success—and allow us to continue keeping our promise to hire more workers, raise wages and benefits and invest in new operations, just as we said we would with tax reform and regulatory certainty. It will empower us to weather any economic disruption that comes our way.
Manufacturers will always be the backbone of a strong American economy. After all, a country that builds things is a secure and prosperous one. Technology has transformed our industry. But at our core, our mission is the same as it has always been: building our nation’s future. And the future is hiring now.
Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, the largest manufacturing association in the United States.