Growing the manufacturing middle class will drive growth

Posted by LDonia on 08/14/2012

abandoned_factoryPenning an op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer this past weekend, Carlos M. Cardoso, CEO of Kennametal, Inc., identifies a demographic he’d like to see grow – the manufacturing middle class.

Says Cardoso:

The importance of this group -- the manufacturing middle class -- to the United States has been immeasurable. Manufacturing jobs created a vision of American life that led immigrants around the world to our shores.”

While the importance of the manufacturing middle class to the greater economy may indeed be immeasurable, Kennametal’s data research team attempted to measure the importance of manufacturing jobs to the middle class.

A regression analysis performed by our data research team at Kennametal…found every one-point increase in manufacturing activity translates to 0.4 percent growth in middle class income.”

Of course, to re-grow the manufacturing sector, jobs are a necessity. Cardoso acknowledges, as many people have recently, that manufacturing jobs are not scarce. In fact, many go unfilled because portions of the workforce lack specific training for newer high-tech positions.

Right now, nearly 1 million U.S. manufacturing jobs are unfilled, including hundreds at Kennametal. Recent economic forecasts from the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation predict manufacturing production will significantly outpace the overall economy and grow 3.4 percent this year, adding another 170,000 jobs along the way.

At the same time, however, the National Association of Manufacturers' estimates reveal that nearly 2.7 million manufacturing workers will retire in the next decade and that demand for skilled labor will increase. The problem for manufacturing isn't the availability of jobs but rather the ability to find skilled workers to fill these jobs.”

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) wrote a National Manufacturing Plan which addresses some of these issues. Included in the plan are recommendations to:

  • Reward companies that are investing in effective skills and training programs for their workers
  • Refocus on technical and vocational education, providing a seamless program that bridges high school and post-secondary education to produce the next generation of highly skilled manufacturing workers
  • Focus federal investments in new technology and workforce training on promoting regional clusters of innovation, learning and production

Cardoso concludes with a view that echoes a sentiment AAM has relayed in the past:

A prosperous middle class doesn't result from economic growth -- it drives economic growth, and recapturing the American dream starts with the manufacturing middle class.

Read more here.

Photo by Flickr user vadikunc, used following Creative Commons guidelines.

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