You can’t attend a manufacturing event in Connecticut without running across at least one conversation where a manufacturer complains about the lack of young people in manufacturing. The good news is that recent programs enabling high school students to get college certificate and degree credits during their junior and senior years is having an immediate impact. Yet most manufacturers I’ve talked to are still disappointed at the general public’s belief that the key to a successful career has to pass under the rigid gates of a four-year college.
Precision Metalworking Association launched an interesting program earlier this summer. On June 29th, PMA launched MFG NXT, a recruitment and retention organization aimed at young manufacturers and potential manufacturers. PMA calls MFG NXT “an ideas hub and support network for Millennials and Gen Xers.”
“We need to nurture a new generation of leaders to ensure that the manufacturing industry continues to keep growing, embracing new technologies and adapting to a changing world,” said PMA President Bill Gaskin. “MFG NXT is all about bringing together talented young manufacturing leaders who are committed to success in their companies and to the future of the U.S. manufacturing sector.”
During this event on the 29th, in Independence Ohio, the young manufacturers heard speeches from workforce experts and also heard differing opinions in a roundtable discussion on issues facing the next generation of workers and manufacturers. For those unfamiliar with the group, PMA is a trade organization supporting the $137 billion metalforming industry in North America. They have over 900 members comprised of manufacturers, equipment suppliers, materials suppliers and suppliers of services. Local Connecticut metalforming companies participated in the event.
Challenges to the Metalforming Inudstry
The metalforming industry, like so many manufacturers, has been facing several challenges that the next generation will inherit. The industry has been fighting the general partisan bickering in Congress that has shaped much of the legislation during the post-recession period and slow economic recovery. That bickering indirectly led to metalworking companies not being able to invest in equipment.
Companies depend on tax incentives to afford technology and equipment, and they often need take a while to make decisions on purchasing and acquiring the equipment. The stagnation in congress repeatedly caused several important business investment tax provisions to expire at the year for many years, which now have to be renewed. This uncertainty greatly hurt companies’ ability to manage their purchases.
Manufacturers did catch a break at the end of last year. Congress and President Obama signed legislation making the R&D Tax Credit and Section 179 Equipment Expensing permanent. Congress and President Obama also passed a bill extending Bonus Depreciation through 2019..
How Millennials deliver solutions in Manufacturing
It will be interesting to see in the coming years how industry millennials tackle the challenges that are currently bubbling under the surface. These include expanding the Internet of Things (IoT,) addressing energy challenges, retrofitting new, more energy efficient HVAC and operating systems into plants, and addressing the need for an educated workforce.
Today, Connecticut is fortunate to have many public servants friendly to manufacturing. US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, US Representatives Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty, have all been strong proponents of manufacturing.
Maybe some of those high school students earning their certificates should reach out to one of our elected officials. If CT manufacturers have learned one thing over the years: it’s always better to do things to influence Washington, before they do things to influence you.
Material from this article was in part sourced from the PMA website (http://www.pma.org/home/). The website did not cite a writer’s name.