Closing the skills gap: the future of American manufacturing

Earlier this year my industry had a big wake-up call. With the onset and rapid spread of COVID-19 we learned many things. The biggest among them was something I’ve known for years: we need to invest in the future of American manufacturing. At a time when we needed things made at home – from masks to ventilators – our country was caught flatfooted. Many could argue why this was – but I would like to suggest it’s a problem my industry has faced for decades: the skills gap. We need Americans in manufacturing – and we need them now.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturers in Michigan account for about 20 percent of the state’s total output at 14 percent of the workforce. Beyond that, in 2018 there were 630,000 manufacturing employees making an average annual compensation of $79,320. Manufacturers are the foundation of the Michigan economy and provide sustainable careers for Michiganders – so why are we struggling to find employees?

That is one question the Whitmer administration is working to address. At the end of May, Governor Whitmer established the Michigan Workforce Development Board to strengthen the size and quality of Michigan’s labor force. The goal for the board is to ensure we’re preparing talent to work and succeed with business like Lucerne.

Beyond following the work of the Board, we’re committed to investing in the future workforce. Through our involvement with MichAuto, we are seeking ways to fill the skills gap. And, we’re committed to raising awareness among K-12 students about opportunities in manufacturing. Helping Michiganders understand the opportunities that exist in our industry is how we grow and expand our industry in our home state.