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Chapter 6 Manufacturing For most Americans, biotechnology represents the new economy and manufacturing epitomizes the old economy. Yet, as discussed in chapter 5, it is in manufacturing where much of the growth in biotechnology employment will occur. But biotechnology is only one small sector within manufacturing . A paradox confronts many manufacturing industries in the twenty-first century: on the one hand, rising productivity and global competition have rendered many jobs vulnerable to capitalism's famous "creative destruction." A seemingly robust company with a growing demand for workers can be marked virtually overnight for downsizing, relocation, or acquisition, or it can be overtaken by new technology. This institutional uncertainty undermines workforce training efforts in the manufacturing sector. But, on the other hand, even though training is a risky business, the most dynamic and competitive of manufacturing enterprises-those worth preserving and expanding-need skilled workers to produce new, high-tech goods as well as old goods using new, high-performance methods. Indeed, without skilled workers these industries will move offshore. The new economy is, in fact, poised to create a significant number of new jobs in manufacturing, jobs that pay relatively well and offer good advancement possibilities. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast that, between 2002 and 2012, more than ninety thousand jobs in metals and plastics work will open up, more than ten thousand in machinist work, and more than twenty-two thousand in molding work. 1 These categories represent just a portion of manufacturing job openings in which people \vith less education than having earned a college degree could be and ought to be trained, and career-ladder programs for the manufacturing sector may well be the best \vay to go about it. vVhat becomes important is identifYing the sectors within manufacturing where enough MANUFACTURING replacement or new jobs are available around which to build career-ladder programs. But can these programs be designed to circumvent the dangers of the new economy and take advantage of its opportunities? This chapter examines this question. What becomes clear is that sectoral career-ladder programs in manufacturing can only succeed if they are embedded in a broader economic development strategy. State and local economic development practitioners need to make strategic decisions regarding which sectors to focus on so as not to invest too little or too much in training. Why Manufacturing Still Matters Manufacturing has many pockets of new growth. Our concern is that the United States will not be able to fill the growing demand for skilled technicians because of outdated negative perceptions of manufacturing jobs. PHYLIS EISEN, vice president, Manufacturing Institute, National Association of Manufacturers One of the greatest difficulties facing those who would like to offer training for jobs in traditional manufacturing industries is convincing people that such jobs are worth the trouble. The view that manufacturing is dead in America is so entrenched that business leaders in Milwaukee threatened not to participate in a citywide economic development project if the manufacturing sector was included as one ofits targets. In the early 1990s African American community organizations in Chicago objected when the community college system proposed focusing its programs more on workforce training in areas such as manufacturing rather than academic transfer, on the grounds that it tracked students out of college. In city after city my own studies have found that few young people want to enter blue-collar occupations , even occupations that pay well and are rarely dirty. They assume that manufacturing no longer offers long-term job stability, and, of course, that is true in many instances. The manufacturing sector has been under siege since the 197os.2 The number of manufacturing jobs in America peaked in 1978 at 18.9 million (18.5 percent of the labor force) and by 2002 was down to only 15.3 million, or 10.6 percent of the nation's employment.3 Over the two recession years of 2001 to 2003, manufacturing jobs dwindled by 14 percent-a loss of about 2.5 million jobs-and average employee earnings in this sector declined (in real dollars) by 9 percent.4 Yet manufacturing remains an essential part of the economy. It produces 64 percent of the nation's exports, on which our ability to conduct global commerce depends, and almost one-fourth of our total economic output.5 CHAPTER 6 Indeed, manufacturing output has been increasing in recent years, despite declining employment in the sector, a feat made possible by a productivity growth rate of 4 percent...


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