The heart of American manufacturing is in the Midwest, but that doesn’t mean it's the best place to find manufacturing jobs today. Professional networking site LinkedIn released a workforce report this week showing a more severe manufacturing skills gap in coastal cities relative to middle American metro areas.
In places like Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis, LinkedIn saw that the supply of manufacturing skills exceeded the demand. Many workers in these regions know lean manufacturing, quality management and supply-chain management. These cities have had manufacturing as a core sector for a long time, so many local workers already have manufacturing expertise. That wouldn't be a problem if the cities weren't shrinking, says LinkedIn economist Guy Berger. Skills supply remains high, but demand for manufacturing jobs has declined.
Cities like San Francisco, New York, Miami, and Washington, D.C., have a more pronounced skills gap in manufacturing. Berger says these coastal cities attract people who work in other sectors such as technology and politics, leaving peripheral industries like manufacturing with a worker shortage.
In LinkedIn’s data, the greater New York area showed a manufacturing skills gap in semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. And the most in-demand roles were in operations, engineering and quality assurance. Miquela Craytor, director of industrial policy at the New York City Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit that supports workforce development, has observed strong demand for manufacturing talent. She says a big challenge is that different manufacturing sectors require unique skills that aren’t necessarily transferable from one company to another, so new employees often have to be trained on the job.
“There’s an intense pressure to adopt new forms of technology,” Craytor adds. “Our equipment is getting smarter and more advanced.” For example, Lee Spring is a Brooklyn-based manufacturer with nearly 160 employees that uses sophisticated equipment to make springs. The work requires both technical skills and an extreme attention to detail.For anyone interested in manufacturing, Craytor recommends paying close attention to science, technology, engineering and math education programs. Some communities have opened “maker spaces” where people can experiment with creating new objects, ranging from robots to clothing. “Think of it as an upgraded version of a shop class, but more inclusive to people of all shapes and sizes,” she says
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