Workforce

Heroes MAKE America Draws a Crowd

Nearly 100 veterans attended a manufacturing career fair at Fort Riley, Kansas, last week, including many who had prepared for their new careers via the Heroes MAKE America program (Kansas Biz News).

What’s going on: “The career fair and other events held by Heroes MAKE America and Manufacturing Institute [the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate] aim to grow the manufacturing industry’s workers for the advancement of modern manufacturing and offer programs, including informational sessions, career fairs, networking, career readiness, placement support and manufacturing tours.”

  • More than 30 regional and national manufacturers had booths at the event.

How it helps: HMA—an MI program with a 90% graduate placement rate—offers career help to job seekers transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workforce. The aid is in the form of training and introductions to manufacturing leaders seeking employees.

  • One military member who attended the fair said “she’s received help with resume writing, interviewing for jobs and how to translate military experience into tools you can use in the civilian world.”
  • HMA, which hosts virtual career fairs throughout the year, also offers resources to employers. These include online training, courses and access to the research of the Society of Human Resource Management Foundation.

Why it’s important: The industry could create about 3.8 million new manufacturing jobs on net between this year and 2033, according to a new study by Deloitte and the MI.

  • However, if the current manufacturing employee deficit is not shored up, approximately half of these jobs—or 1.9 million—could go unfilled.

What’s next: Interested employers can participate in an information session to be held later this month, where they can learn more about attracting, hiring and retaining military talent through upcoming career fairs and virtual hiring events.

The last word: “Members of the military community often possess valuable skills and qualities—such as discipline, teamwork, leadership and problem-solving abilities—that are in demand for manufacturing careers,” said MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee.

  • “That’s why manufacturers are increasingly connecting with this top talent through an array of resources provided by the MI’s Heroes MAKE America initiative.”
Business Operations

In Search for Workers, One Manufacturer Pulls Out the Stops

Marvin, a window and door manufacturer based in Warroad, Minnesota, is looking thousands of miles south to fill job openings (The Wall Street Journal, subscription).

What’s going on: Marvin employs about 700 people at its Warroad location. With older-generation workers retiring at the rate of about one employee a week and a town population that hasn’t grown in decades, the company “came up with a recruitment plan called ‘The Path North,’ which aims to find workers in Puerto Rico and Florida willing to uproot their families and settle in a cold northern town”—but it’s proving a difficult sell, even with generous relocation bonuses and temporary housing.

  • Unemployment in Puerto Rico and Florida is low, so Marvin is fishing for talent in relatively sparsely populated ponds.
  • Of the 115 workers who came from Puerto Rico in the past eight or nine months, just 63 remain at the company.
  • Marvin has 10 other locations throughout North America.

Why it’s important: Marvin’s challenge is emblematic of “manufacturing in America today. The U.S. population is barely growing, baby boomers are exiting the workforce,” many young people are unaware of the many advantages of working in manufacturing and “[t]here is little political will for lasting immigration reform that could fill workforce gaps.”

  • If current trends continue, the U.S. will have 2.1 million open manufacturing positions by 2030, according to a joint study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate.

Well worth it: Still, for those who come to Marvin, the rewards are significant.

  • The company helps employees find permanent housing and is even an investor in a local apartment complex.
  • There is job security, too. When orders slowed at one of its factories a few years ago, the company offered cash bonuses to employees willing to relocate to Warroad.
  • Marvin has also helped Warroad schools hire Spanish-language translators to assist the children of new hires.

The final say: “Tapping into new talent pools is especially critical in rural areas, whether it’s done via relocation support, engaging second chance populations or participating in initiatives such as the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program, which is building connections between the military community and the manufacturing industry by bringing in new workers,” said MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “We need to engage all talent pools to fill the 500,000 jobs in manufacturing today.”

Workforce

Manufacturing Employment Stays the Same

Employment in manufacturing remained essentially the same in April as it was in March, according to data out today from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Overall employment increased by 175,000.

What’s going on: Manufacturing employed a seasonally adjusted 12,961,000 workers in April, up just marginally from 12,953,000 in March and 12,957,000 in February.

  • The number of people employed in manufacturing was also up only slightly from April 2023, when it was a seasonally adjusted 12,941,000.

Durable goods vs. nondurable: There were a seasonally adjusted 8,144,000 workers in durable goods manufacturing in April, flat from March’s number.

  • Nondurable goods had a seasonally adjusted 4,817,000 employees, also essentially unchanged from the prior month.

Workweek: The average workweek in the manufacturing industry was unchanged from March, at 40.0 hours.

  • In the larger economy, the workweek for all nonfarm employees inched down by 0.1 hour in April, to 34.3 hours.

​​​​​​​Earnings: Average earnings in manufacturing were also little changed from March to April, coming in at $33.61 an hour in the latest reading, down only slightly from $33.65, but up from February’s $33.44.

Input Stories

U.S. Birthrate Falls


The U.S. fertility rate is at record lows (The Wall Street Journal, subscription).

What’s going on: “The total fertility rate fell to 1.62 births per woman in 2023, a 2% decline from a year earlier, federal data released Thursday showed. It is the lowest rate recorded since the government began tracking it in the 1930s.”

  • The data reflect a continuing trend: American women, across ethnic groups, are delaying or foregoing having children.
  • In 2023, the number of U.S. births was the lowest in 44 years.

Why it’s happening: “A confluence of factors are at play. American women are having fewer children, later in life. Women are establishing fulfilling careers and have more access to contraception.”

  • As a group, they are also increasingly uncertain about their futures “and spending more of their income on homeownership, student debt and child care.”

The details: From 2022 to 2023, birthrates declined more among younger women.

  • “Women in their mid-to-late 30s are having children at similar rates to those in their early to mid-20s. Birthrates for women 35–39 fell to 54.7 births per 1,000 women—closer to the rates for women 20–24, which dropped 4% to 55.4 births per 1,000 women in 2023.”
  • Birthrates among women in their 40s stayed the same.

Why it’s important: Fewer U.S. births could reshape the economy and “other facets of American life.”

  • However, “[a]n influx of people immigrating to the U.S. could offset the impact of lower birthrates on the U.S. population’s size,” said Brady Hamilton, a co-author of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that includes the data findings. “Immigration has risen in recent years, easing labor shortages and expanding the population of big metropolitan areas.”

​​​​​​​Read more: For a comprehensive blueprint on U.S. immigration reform, download “A Way Forward,” the NAM’s recommendations to Congress on the subject.
​​​​​​​

Policy and Legal

New Overtime Rule Will Cost Employers and Workers

A new final overtime rule from the U.S. Department of Labor will reduce flexibility for employees and could force manufacturers to make difficult choices about their workforces, the NAM said Tuesday.

What’s going on: The new regulation “changes the salary threshold used to determine whether a worker is exempt from overtime pay” so that, beginning Jan. 1, 2025, most employees earning less than $58,656 will be owed time-and-a-half wages for hours worked over 40 in a single workweek (Bloomberg Law, subscription).

  • The current salary threshold is $35,568.
  • The new rule will go into effect July 1, following publication in the Federal Register.

Why it’s problematic: The change promises to present significant challenges to employers and employees alike.

  • “Quarter after quarter, manufacturers cite workforce issues, such as attracting and retaining skilled employees, as their biggest business challenge,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram. The “rule places new constraints on employers, reduces flexibility for the workers who will be reclassified and may force companies to make painful choices that limit both job creation and growth opportunities available to employees.”

What’s next: The NAM is weighing all actions to protect manufacturers across the country.
​​​​​​​

Press Releases

Manufacturers: DOL Overtime Rule Will Exacerbate Workforce Crisis

Washington, D.C. – Following the release of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division rule concerning updates to the overtime regulations, National Association of Manufacturers Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram released the following statement:

Quarter after quarter, manufacturers cite workforce issues, such as attracting and retaining skilled employees, as their biggest business challenge. Yet today’s rule places new constraints on employers, reduces flexibility for the workers who will be reclassified and may force companies to make painful choices that limit both job creation and growth opportunities available to employees. In addition, this latest regulatory hurdle will complicate manufacturers’ efforts to fill the millions of jobs our industry is projected to create within a decade.”

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 13 million men and women, contributes $2.89 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 53% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Workforce

“Why Inclusion Matters”: GM’s Stephanie Thompson on STEM, Women in Manufacturing

Stephanie Thompson may not have always intended to go into manufacturing, but she’s very glad she did.

The path taken: “You don’t necessarily plan your journey, but sometimes you can look back and see how those paths presented themselves,” and you’re thankful they did, said the engineering manager at General Motors’ facility just outside St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

  • “My career in manufacturing started in internships in university. I worked for a food manufacturer, for a company that made above-ground swimming pools … It was a great chance to try out different businesses, and I [realized that I] love the buzz and excitement that manufacturing has.”

Award nominee: Thompson is a 2024 Honoree of the Women MAKE Awards, honors given annually to 130 women making a difference in manufacturing by the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate.

  • Thompson—who started working for GM full time right after university and has held multiple positions in her 23 years there—was the first woman to become an engineering manager in her time at her site.
  • Women MAKE Award winners will be celebrated April 18 at the 2024 Women MAKE Awards Gala in Washington, D.C.

Always improving: An Ottawa native and graduate of the University of Waterloo, Thompson sums up her very complex job as “a manufacturing assembly specialist [who] makes sure people can do their jobs safely—and do it over and over again.”

  • She oversees the assembly of whole powertrain lines. For one particular engine, “I was there for the first one made, and I was here for the last—we made over 5 million,” she said of a recently retired line.
  • “We are always looking to make improvements, to make things more cost effective, to make things simpler,” she said. “The problem-solver part of me really enjoys making those incremental differences every day. [In manufacturing,] you get that sense of satisfaction from making stuff and ultimately giving a customer what they want.”

Women in STEM: Thompson, who has been recognized several times in her native Can

ada for her commitment to women’s education in science, technology, engineering and math, somehow found the time a few years ago to launch STEMbySteph.com, a STEM-focused website that includes a workshop series for women in the fields.

  • She is also a mentor for FIRST Canada, which aims to interest kids in science and technology, and a regular speaker on related topics.
  • “There are so many great women coming up through the ranks” in manufacturing today, she told us. “I want them to know there isn’t a limit to what they can do. I want to put myself out there as a technical role model, so women who apply [for manufacturing and STEM jobs] see themselves on the interview panel. They should know there’s a space for them in manufacturing.”

Work in progress: And while she’s had “nothing but great experiences with the men in manufacturing,” Thompson said the industry as a whole could benefit from “having some conversations” to make sure women feel welcome.

  • “I don’t think it’s malicious,” she said, of the relatively low number of women in manufacturing (they make up about 30% of the
    manufacturing workforce). “But one of the things you have to do as a leader is create intentionality and create environments where conflict is positive, where you can all create ideas to [fix] the problem and where individuals feel safe being themselves.”
Workforce

Study: Manufacturing in U.S. Could Need Up to 3.8 Million Workers

The U.S. manufacturing industry could require some 3.8 million jobs to be filled within the next decade, according to a new joint study from the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501c3 workforce development and education affiliate, and Deloitte.

What’s going on: Taking charge: Manufacturers support growth with active workforce strategies” found that manufacturing in the U.S. has emerged from the global pandemic on strong footing and is likely to continue to grow in the next few years.

  • That growth will call for even more skilled workers—particularly statisticians, data scientists, logisticians, engineers, computer and information systems managers, software developers and industrial maintenance technicians—spotlighting the need to build the national talent pipeline.
  • “Pandemic-driven shifts have already created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and now we are seeing increased demand for digital skills that need to be met or risk further widening of the talent gap,” said Manufacturing Institute President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee.

Key findings: Top takeaways from the report include:

  • If workforce challenges are not addressed, more than 1.9 million of the up to 3.8 million jobs likely to be needed between this year and 2033 could go unfilled.
  • Some 65% of manufacturers polled said attracting and retaining talent is their primary business challenge.
  • About 90% said they are forming at least one partnership to better attract and retain employees, and on average they have at least four such partnerships.
  • Approximately 47% indicated that apprenticeships, work study programs or internships at manufacturing companies would be the most effective way of increasing interest in the industry.
  • Some 47% also said flexible work arrangements—such as flex shifts, shift swapping and split shifts—have been their top retention tool.

The bottom line: Manufacturers continue to face a talent shortage—and the MI has the initiatives and resources ready today to help manufacturers address these challenges.

  • From the recent flexibility white paper—which explains how manufacturers can build and deploy flexibility options for the 49% of workers that are on the production teams—to the high school internship toolkit that allows manufacturers to start a recruiting pipeline in high schools, to the FAME USA apprenticeship program training global best multi-skilled maintenance technicians and more, the MI has solutions to the hurdles highlighted in this study. Learn more at themanufacturinginstitute.org.
Business Operations

Skilled Trades See Interest Uptick

More young people are choosing skilled trade jobs after high school, The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “Enrollment in vocational training programs is surging as overall enrollment in community colleges and four-year institutions has fallen. The number of students enrolled in vocational-focused community colleges rose 16% last year to its highest level since the National Student Clearinghouse began tracking such data in 2018. The ranks of students studying construction trades rose 23% during that time, while those in programs covering HVAC and vehicle maintenance and repair increased 7%.”

Why it’s important: The trades, including manufacturing, have experienced a worker shortage in recent years as the older generation of employees retires.

  • Finding and retaining quality talent is consistently a top business challenge among manufacturers, according to the NAM’s Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, a quarterly polling of the industry.
  • But now, trade-apprenticeship demand is surging, perhaps a signal that positions will start to fill.

Perception change: For many years the vocational education wing of one high school in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, was called “greaser hall,” but lately that’s started to change, a counselor there told the Journal.

  • “[B]usinesses have raised funds and donated new equipment, including robotic arms … [and] those classrooms now sit at the building’s main entrance. ‘There’s still a presumption that four-year college is the gold standard, but it doesn’t take as much work to get people to buy into the viability of other options,’ [he said].”

The last word: Indeed, the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 nonprofit workforce development and education affiliate, is seeing significant growth in its FAME initiative, an earn-while-you-learn training program with more than 40 chapters in 16 states—and more forming all the time. FAME, which was founded by Toyota and is now led by the MI, is truly the American model of skills training, according to MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee.

  • “FAME is training thousands of global best technicians nationwide and the number of program participants is on the rise,” she said. “This is good news for manufacturing, which sorely needs talent to continue to make the many, many things people use every day.”
Workforce

A Merck Manufacturer Leads the Way

a man smiling for the camera

For Alexandra Bryant-Boose, being a mentor matters—because she’s seen firsthand what good mentorship can accomplish.

From a mentor at a homeless shelter where she and her mother lived for a time, to an eighth-grade science teacher who pointed her toward a scholarship at an engineering summer program, she is grateful for all the people who helped guide her in the right direction.

  • “There were so many experiences where someone gave me an opportunity,” Bryant-Boose said.

Today, as an automation specialist at Merck Manufacturing Division, part of Merck in Durham, North Carolina, Bryant-Boose is paying that opportunity forward, making sure that others are able to find their passion and achieve their dreams.

Discovering manufacturing: Bryant-Boose graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in chemical engineering, a concentration in biomolecular engineering and a double minor in microbiology and biotechnology.

  • When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she began looking at careers at Merck, and in her words, just stumbled onto automation. After doing some research, she was hooked.
  • “Automation is like playing investigative journalism or being a detective,” said Bryant-Boose. “Sometimes there’s a problem and no one will know what the issue is—and automation is about looking into the nitty-gritty, getting a little dirty and opening up a system to find what the issue is. That way of thinking and working is what makes me enjoy what I do.”

Educating young people: In 2022, Bryant-Boose launched a project designed to spread opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math to young people who might not otherwise be able to learn about those subjects.

  • She started small in 2022, with a program at a local middle school. Last summer, in collaboration between the Society of Women Engineers and Durham Parks & Recreation, the project grew into a STEM summer camp with about 30 Merck volunteers.
  • “We hosted 90 kids in three locations who all got that face-to-face interaction with Merck employees,” she said. “It was a lot of work to organize, but it was good to pay it forward. I’m giving kids someone to look up to and helping them figure out where they might go.”

Promoting support: Bryant-Boose is also a talent acquisition lead for the League of Employees of African Descent at Merck. The internal group, which offers both mentoring and reverse mentoring—in which younger employees provide advice and knowledge to executive team members—gives her a chance to both advise and be advised.

  • “I like being able to give people advice that I wish I had,” said Bryant-Boose. “At the end of the day, it’s good to be around people who can relate to things you’re going through. And I find that LEAD allows me to do that at Merck.”

Gaining recognition: Recently, Bryant-Boose was named an Emerging Leader in manufacturing by the 2024 Women MAKE Awards, a distinction for a select few women under the age of 30 who have achieved unique accomplishments at the start of their careers in manufacturing.

Offering advice: Some of Bryant-Boose’s best advice is to encourage people— especially women—to find their own mentors.

  • “I know coming into what’s historically been a male-dominated field can be intimidating,” said Bryant-Boose. “If you’re a woman considering manufacturing, or actively getting into it, find that person who can be your mentor. Claim them. Go to them when you need someone to talk to.”

Go deeper: To see the full list of 2024 Women MAKE Award Honorees and Emerging Leaders, click here. To learn more about the Women MAKE Awards, click here, and to learn more about the MI’s free Women MAKE Mentorship Program, click here or contact the team at [email protected].

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