The COVID-19 pandemic has propelled a national movement to strengthen domestic supply chains and reshore. Recruitment of the next generation of skilled manufacturing talent is paramount to this effort, but there is a widening gap between the skills needed by industry and the skills of job candidates. There are two leading reasons for the skills gap. First, a lack of recruits. Second, the pace of innovation. For U.S. manufacturing and workforce development, innovation is a game changer.

Young people have a preconceived image of manufacturing careers being dark, dirty, dangerous and disappearing, consistent with the 1950s reality and the impact of decades of offshoring. But conditions have dramatically improved, and much of today’s manufacturing is bright, clean, safe and expanding. To improve the perception of manufacturing and attract more young workers, the industry needs to show that modern manufacturing is a high-skilled, high-tech, high-paying, stable career choice.

Many of today’s manufacturing environments look more like clean rooms, especially facilities that manufacture electronics, pharmaceutical products and medical equipment. Companies are realizing the financial and environmental benefits of investing in new technologies and processes that reduce expenses, maximize profits and boost brand reputations on behalf of workers and consumers.

Eighty-eight percent of industrial businesses are now prioritizing sustainable manufacturing. Sustainability is the management of environmental, social and economic impacts. Reshoring checks all of the sustainability boxes, since it reduces environmental impact, has a positive societal effect, and manufacturing’s high multiplier effect stimulates more economic activity than other sectors. And, a reduced carbon footprint makes a positive difference on employee and community health and safety.


Manufacturing Is Coming Home

Reshoring Initiative data shows that manufacturing jobs created by reshoring and foreign direct investment (FDI) for 2021 are projected to exceed 220,000—38 percent above an excellent 2020 and, by far, the highest yearly number recorded to date. The number of companies reporting new reshoring and FDI is also set for a new annual record: more than 1,800 companies. Manufacturing employment is 3 million higher than would have been predicted just 13 years ago. As manufacturers move production closer to home, they are embracing advanced technologies to boost competitiveness, improve efficiencies, and close the labor cost gap.

Industry 4.0 is transforming work at an unparalleled pace due to rapidly changing technologies like artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and cognitive automation, advanced analytics, and the Internet of things (IoT). Enhancing capabilities through the adoption of innovative technologies will increase efficiency and narrow the manufacturing cost gap with foreign competitors, thus boosting global competitiveness and enabling reshoring.

This is good news, but a global survey reveals that 57 percent of manufacturing leaders say that their organization lacks skilled workers to support digitization initiatives. A Brookings study found that although 44 percent of U.S. jobs required medium-high digital skill levels in 2002, by 2016 it was essential for 70 percent of jobs. To realize the full potential of investments in innovation, manufacturers will need skilled workers for new collar jobs.

Industry 4.0 is improving safety conditions through enhanced training, remote experts, 3D work instructions, augmented reality, real-time monitoring and more. For example, aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has embraced mixed-reality (MR) headsets for training, manufacturing and assembly. Users wear a headset to get both a real and a digital view, enabling them to interact with virtual environments and real objects with their hands. Using the MR technology enabled Lockheed to save time and money. Officials said that since the rollout of the technology, the systems that used it have had “zero failures.” In October 2021, Lockheed opened its third digital factory in Alabama.

The U.S. manufacturing skills gap could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030 with a missing jobs cost of $1 trillion in 2030 alone. Here are some Reshoring Initiative resources that can help motivate recruitment:

  • Use our data to demonstrate how reshoring is surging to record highs, making careers stable.
  • Attend an upcoming presentation or watch a recent digital event, such as webinars, podcasts and videos.
  • Get local companies to report their reshoring to our website. Then get local media to report the cases.

We have unlimited control over our domestic competitiveness initiatives and our ability to achieve our ambitions. Let’s collaborate to support advanced manufacturing technologies and skilled workforce development and rebuild the U.S. manufacturing base. For help, call 847-867-1144 or email