Over the past 20 years, the manufacturing industry in the US has evolved greatly due to the increase in global and international business. Since companies have gone overseas for manufacturing to lessen labor and material costs, there has also been another shift taking place that no one really talks about. It is the shift involving job skills and gender, which has impacted the manufacturing industry as a whole just as outsourcing overseas has. Since manufacturing jobs have gone overseas in the last couple decades, there has been less of a demand for people to go out and find manufacturing jobs, and less of a demand to get a degree in engineering or math. This has caused a huge shortage for companies who are seeking skilled workers to perform manufacturing jobs. As a metal fabricator, here at VIP, we can completely relate to this issue and being able to find skilled workers.
Another factor that has greatly impacted the number of skilled workers is the amount of women in the manufacturing industry. In the past, there was a decent percentage of women in manufacturing, specifically in the apparel industry. After manufacturing went overseas, less women have looked to the manufacturing industry to have a career in. According to the Wall Street Journal, since 1990 the number of women employees in the manufacturing industry has dropped from 32% to 27% while women generally make up 50% of the U.S. workforce (Bell). In other words, the gender gap in manufacturing is continuing to increase overtime. This could be largely due to the assumption that the manufacturing industry is dirty and dangerous, and therefore meant for men rather than women.This is a huge fallacy because technology and equipment has largely changed the manufacturing environment in regards to safety and cleanliness in more recent years. On the other hand, this gap in gender and skills can also be due to the influences of higher education. Due to the newer and up and coming majors in colleges, women are looking to other appealing majors that lead to different industries such as science, high technology, healthcare, and business. According to a national survey conducted by UCLA in 2012, about 18% of men majored in engineering as opposed to only 4% of women (Hagerty). These statistics show the gender gap which perfectly corresponds to the percentages of men and women employees in the manufacturing industry.
What makes it even more interesting is the fact that manufacturing jobs tend to pay more and provide more benefits than other common jobs that are within the retail and food service industries. “A Commerce Department study last year found that pay and benefits in the U.S. manufacturing averaged 17% higher than nonmanufacturing jobs,” (Hagerty). In order for the manufacturing industry to make a turning point and obtain skilled works is to change the image of manufacturing in order to appeal to more women. The manufacturing industry not only provides work-life balance, but also better compensation than many other popular industries. By closing the gender gap, adding awareness to the benefits of having a career in the manufacturing industry, encouraging students to pursue their education in engineering and math will attract skilled workers and strengthen US manufacturing. Economically, this would not only benefit employees, but also the US companies, and also the US economy overall!
Bell, Mary. “Op/Ed: To Close the Skills Gap in Manufacturing, Close the Gender Gap.” U.S. News. 6 Feb. 2014. Web 14 Feb. 2014.
Hagerty, James. “Gender Gap Widens in Manufacturing.” Business. Wall Street Journal. 20 Dec. 2013. Web 14 Feb. 2014.