U.S. manufacturing workers brush up on math, business processes

July 10, 2012

While many manufacturing firms in the U.S. have begun to adjust their model of operation and business strategy, workers who are looking to enter into the sector are making similar adjustments.

National Public Radio reported that the work performed by professionals in the sector today differs greatly from what many think of when they picture manufacturing jobs. High-tech operations have taken the place of assembly line images in factories, and applicants for the positions are much more qualified than in previous years.

According to the news outlet, this is why a growing number of people who are looking for work, especially some of the high-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector, are brushing up on their math and computer skills.

Despite the relatively high unemployment rate in the U.S., manufacturing companies are still struggling to find qualified workers, highlighting the need for more education in the math- and science-related fields.

North American Tool Corp.'s Jim Hoyt noted that he has several openings that he has yet to fill due to a lack of qualified applicants.

"I'll write a few numbers down, mostly numbers with decimal points, because that's what we use in manufacturing, and have them add them or subtract them, or divide by two," Hoyt told NPR.

He noted that these skills, though they may seem to be basic to some, are not something that many unemployed Americans have, despite many holding secondary education degrees or high school diplomas.

A resurgence in the sector is reliant upon companies being able to find educated and skilled workers, and if there is better training for workers, U.S. manufacturing could see sustained growth in the coming years.

Investment Contrarians reported that U.S. manufacturing could be able to recover many of the jobs that were lost due to outsourcing in the coming decade, as a number of new factors, including the availability of cheap natural gas and increased tech innovation, have shifted many companies away from China.

According to the news outlet, many companies have calculated shipping and labor costs in the U.S. compared to China, and have found that it is often cheaper to make the products closer to where they are being purchased. The industry is well positioned to adapt to any further market changes, as many companies have adjusted to lean manufacturing practices to limit expenditures and overhead.