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A new survey by Leading2Lean found that a majority of Americans believe the U.S. manufacturing sector is failing when that couldn't be further from the truth. The survey revealed that 70 percent of people think the American manufacturing industry is in decline and that 58 percent of people believe that the number of manufacturing jobs in America is declining. Of those who think that the industry is in decline, 71 percent cited jobs being outsourced to countries outside the United States as the top reason for this decline.
In reality, manufacturing is growing at such a fast rate that over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled and an estimated 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled.
"This survey has brought to light the general public's misconceptions about the current state of the manufacturing industry," said Keith Barr, CEO and president of Leading2Lean. "It seems that the majority of Americans hold outdated assumptions about the industry, when the present-day truth is American manufacturing is thriving."
So why is there such a large perception gap? There are many reasons, including political rancor and grandstanding, a belief that manufacturing jobs are poorly compensated or prone to monotonous and repetitive work, and news accounts of vacant and rusting buildings. Barr also thinks the industry itself is partly to blame.
"We haven't done a good enough job explaining to our potential workforce that manufacturing has evolved," he noted. "Today's manufacturing jobs are dynamic, require the ability to work with technology, and the ability to problem-solve complex issues. Systems have even started making use of gamification concepts, which are increasing motivation and engendering positive behaviors, in particular for Millennials and Generation Z workers. And most importantly, these are high-wage jobs."
The survey revealed a perception that manufacturing isn't a viable career option and that there are not a lot of jobs available. The survey also found that only 55 percent of respondents thought manufacturing offered fulfilling careers, and only 45 percent considered manufacturing jobs as an attractive option for younger workers and the next generation of workers. This leaves a surprisingly large portion of Americans who are unsure or unconvinced that the industry is a fulfilling or attractive career option.
"We hear of high-school graduates regularly pursuing popular and well-paying careers in graphic design or medical technology, while similarly high-paying and fulfilling careers in manufacturing get left unfilled because of negative assumptions about the industry," Barr added.
Salary statistics speak for themselves. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls is $44,595.20 ($21.44 per hour) as of July 2018. This is nearly three times the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour). On top of competitive salaries, manufacturing workers are commonly also provided with higher levels of benefits, such as paid leave, supplemental pay and insurance, as compared to other industries.
According to 2018 data from Glassdoor, the average base pay for managerial-level manufacturing jobs in the United States is competitive with tech sector jobs. For example, the average base pay of a manufacturing supervisor is $64,118. For a manufacturing engineer, the average is $71,679, and for a director of manufacturing, the average base pay is $146,412.
"Our goal is to educate the public about what's really happening on the floors of American manufacturing plants," Barr said. "We believe that as people better understand the opportunities and growth in manufacturing, more will pursue careers in this industry."
The survey was conducted by the Engine Group and sponsored by Leading2Lean, a manufacturing software technology company. The survey polled 1,000 respondents online nationally with a 95 percent confidence level.
To view the full survey results, visit www.leading2lean.com/leading2lean-manufacturing-index/.