More than half of the small manufacturers responding to an operating survey from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM, Washington) expect their sales to grow more than 5 percent this year. Similarly, 41 percent of survey respondents expect they will increase capital investment in 2006 by more than 5 percent. "This is the most optimistic outlook in 8 years," says David Huether, NAM's chief economist. "These are positive figures that point to increased capital spending and job growth." This also agrees nicely with the results of ASSEMBLY magazine's 11th Annual Capital Spending Study, which forecasts a 3.6 percent increase in capital spending by manufacturers in 2007. You can read the report beginning on page 26 in this issue.
At the same time, Manpower Inc. (Milwaukee) reports that U.S. employers expect to close out this year the same way it began-with steady hiring plans-according to the firm's latest quarterly Employment Outlook Survey. Durable goods manufacturers report a 10th consecutive quarter of steady hiring plans, with hiring expected to be most active in the West. Non-durable goods manufacturers also expect steady hiring, with the West again leading the way.
The question, however, is whether skilled workers will be available for manufacturers to hire. NAM's operating survey also points to a glaring problem that continues to confound American manufacturers: a lack of qualified workers to fill positions that require highly skilled operators. Indeed, 90 percent of respondents cited a moderate to severe shortage of qualified skilled production employees, according to NAM's 2005 Skills Gap Report. Those in short supply include machinists, operators, craft workers and technicians, as well as engineers and scientists.
A nationally recognized certification program for skilled production technicians, announced recently by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC, Alexandria, VA), aims to address this problem. MSSC's goal is to equip the nation's front-line workforce with the core knowledge and skills needed to keep pace with technological change. Using federal skill standards as a basis, MSSC has developed a comprehensive training, assessment and credentialing system for production workers.
The program was greeted enthusiastically by both manufacturers and labor. John Rauschenberger, manager of personnel research and development for Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI), said that as workforce competence looms ever larger as a serious challenge to industry, nationally recognized certification will provide a basis for documenting competency across all sectors. Keith Romig of the United Steelworkers and chair of the MSSC's labor caucus, said it addresses two problems. "First, many current workers do have the skills they need, but they lack any formal means to certify that to current or future employers," he said. "Second, our educational system is not training enough new workers in vital industrial skills."
You can learn more about this program, and how your company can participate, by visiting www.msscusa.org. Get involved and help shape the future of manufacturing.