Wisconsin needs to celebrate manufacturing

James S. Haney
Tags: manufacturing
Wisconsin is home to some of the most recognized companies in the nation and the world. Our state is home to more than 10,300 manufacturers that support more than 600,000 jobs. In fact, as a percent of total employment, Wisconsin employs the second-highest number of manufacturing workers in the United States.

We take pride in the quality of work we are famous for. Manufacturers are the engine that drives the Wisconsin economy, creating products that foster job growth in other sectors of our state economy.

We have a reason to celebrate our manufacturing successes.

Manufacturing contributes $47.7 billion, or 23 percent, to Wisconsin’s gross state product. Every $1 in manufactured goods generates an additional $1.43 worth of economic activity – more than any other economic sector.

In 2005, Wisconsin exported $14 billion in manufactured goods, making up 94 percent of the state’s total exports.

Manufacturers are good corporate citizens, giving freely of their wealth to help neighbors and communities. Manufacturers help keep Wisconsin strong and that means better jobs and brighter futures for our families and our communities.

However, in order to continue to celebrate these successes, we need to encourage students to consider manufacturing careers. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), our country will need 13 million new skilled workers by 2020.

Highly trained manufacturing professionals are in demand. According to a recent survey of CEOs of Wisconsin manufacturing companies, 57 percent reported they will be hiring employees. The vast majority of hires will be skilled workers for production jobs.

NAM reports: “The fundamental problem is young people have an outdated image of manufacturing today. They still think of manufacturing as it existed 50 years ago. Young adults do not realize that dynamic, cutting-edge technology has transformed manufacturing in ways that are hard to imagine if you haven’t visited a factory lately. Today’s modern manufacturing plant is filled with a broad range of jobs for students who have finished high school and wish to follow a technical career path or four-year degree. The future of manufacturing depends on overturning stereotypes so that a new generation can be introduced to the outstanding 21st-century career opportunities it offers.”

If Wisconsin is going to continue to lead the nation and maintain its competitive edge in the global marketplace, we must do a better job promoting manufacturing as a career choice for our youth.

We need to do a better job educating students and their parents about the new reality of manufacturing providing high-paying, challenging, and interesting careers in technologically advanced environments.

The fact is Wisconsin manufacturers pay the highest wages averaging $44,153, compared to the average wage of all Wisconsin industries which is $34,388. Most companies also provide health care and other good benefits.

Manufacturing productivity continues to outpace gains in the nation and the world as manufacturers adapt their business to utilize new technology and compete in a global economy.

Manufacturers are responsible for almost two-thirds of all private sector research and development, which ultimately benefits other manufacturing and non-manufacturing activities.

Today, manufacturers employ skilled professionals trained in the latest software and technical equipment.

Wisconsin should be proud of its manufacturing heritage and celebrate the jobs manufacturers create every single day.

About the author:
James S. Haney is the president of the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. WMC is a statewide, non-profit business association representing Wisconsin business. Currently, the association has nearly 4,000 members that include both large and small manufacturers, service companies, local chambers of commerce and specialized trade associations. Promoting a healthy business climate since 1911, it is a merger of the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association, the State Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin Council of Safety. To learn more about this group, visit www.wmc.org.

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