Although manufacturing isn’t the “king” it once was in the US, it still makes up nine percent of the U.S. workforce (16% locally). Like many other industries in our modern, quickly-changing economy, we as manufacturers require skilled workers in critical positions such as machine/equipment operators, automation supervisors, supply chain managers, computer technology, and various management positions. Without these skilled workers, the manufacturing industry will face an uphill battle in the coming years and decades.

So why is there such a gap in skills in the manufacturing industry? One of the biggest reasons is that the skilled work force is also aging closer to retirement every year. On average, 25% of the experienced skilled workers in the industry are 55 years or older. The niche skills that manufacturers need employees to have have not been stressed in recent decades to high school or college aged kids, as they’ve been consistently encouraged into non-STEM college programs.

Although this skills gap is well-known to Politicians top-to-bottom across the country, legislation has only recently been designated to address the skills gap across the nation. Federally, Congress recently reauthorized the Perkins Act, which allows for up to $1.3 billion dollars to be allocated to various national and local efforts designed to help post-secondary students receive the on-the-job training they need to succeed in industries with skilled worker shortages according to Foley.com.

Locally, we’ve worked with our other regional manufacturing partners to start the Erie Regional Manufacturer Partnership (ERMP) and run the annual Manufacturing Day every Fall.

If you’re not familiar ERMP is an industry-led partnership dedicated to ensuring that manufacturing remains a strong contributor to the regional economy. Formed in 2014 by a group of 20 local manufacturers to develop and implement a plan to identify, qualify and recruit individuals for manufacturing jobs today and in the future. ERMP companies employ close to 9,000 individuals, over 6,000 locally.

ERMP is leading a collaborative approach among manufacturers, educators, workforce development professionals, and other leaders to align efforts and create a mechanism for ongoing dialogue to ensure manufacturing remains a strong contributor to the regional economy.

Manufacturing Day teaches the region, in particular local high school students, about the high-paying manufacturing careers available, and discovered how manufacturing remains the economic powerhouse behind our local, regional and national economies.

ISM remains committed to both these groups and look forward to growing them in the region every year!