A good snapshot where the United States stands today in its quest for bringing jobs back to the nation.
I was particularly struck by the following graph in this story:
"...Most argued that labor costs and energy usage aren’t the key barriers; what is needed is a revival of flexible, design-driven manufacturing and a new, modular approach to training the next generation of machinists, engineers and technical managers."
A year ago, most of us were almost unanimously in agreement that there is no way the U.S. could compete with other nations like China or India -- especially in manufacturing -- on the grounds of labor cost.
Now we are beginning to see a whole new debate unfolding in front of our eyes.
Some very interesting points developed here. It is nice to see people realizing that labor costs are only one part of the equation, especially if productivity multiplies the actual labor results. But while there are tech jobs available, finding people to fill them is often difficult - in many cases, not because there are no skilled workers available but because the skilled workers are not where the jobs are and are not willing to relocate. This is a hurdle that must be overcome as well. With the proper education at the community college level and above, targeting skill training to an appropriate geographic area can help, but will always necessarily lag the requirements, often by a couple of years or more.
You're are correct, Dave, you have to go where the jobs are. I was told by the high school career adviser I would work in the paper mills like my dad before me. That lit a fire under me.
Several panelists at the DoE conference noted that worker mobility is way down. The reasons range from not wanting to leave a "secure" job to being "under water" on a home loan. Still, if you are young, smart and willing to work, there are jobs out there.
Yes, there is a need for advanced expertise and management experience in 'emerging' (but some almost there) markets. And that is being fulfilled in part by returning expats (repats?), and by Americans who become expats. And George makes a couple of important points on 'why' some workers can't be mobile, but I have seen some compromise by commuting (their spouse and children stay back). Add to that, often the spouse has a relatively secure career in their home region (and may not be transportable, like real estate attorney - you basically start over if you move to another state).
As the U.S. pulls together its manufacturing strategy, there will be a heavy emphasis on "manufacturing clusters," that is, state and regional ecosystems that can be tied in to community colleges, trade union training programs and the like. Some large companies like Dow Chemical are already focusing on this approach, but they want to pull in more small and mid-sized companies where the next big innovations in manufacturing may be percolating.
Our friends at "Manufacturing and Technology News" report that the Obama administration's fiscal 2013 budget request includes a proposal to create a $1 billion public-private partnership "aimed at commercializing and manufacturing U.S. developed technologies." The partnership would be based on a similar program at Germany's Fraunhofer Institutes.
Here's a link to the story:
"As state funding has dwindled, public colleges have raised tuition and are now resorting to even more desperate measures — cutting training for jobs the economy needs most."
Full story here:
2/3 rds of the US economy is for medium technoogy consumer products. The US cannot survive if these are outsourced to China. As we have seen in electronics, driven by rational self interest China will invest profit from making sneakers or assembling PCs ( low tech consumer products ) into Base Stations & Servers ( Huawei ) and so on. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has become a house divided ( Wall St vs Main St ), arrogantly underestimating China and sending investment & technology to China for higher returns.
Our advantage over China rests with out unmatched design capability, as the commentators at the Energy Department conference repeatedly pointed out. This capability must be integral to the (re)training of American workers so that we can build up flexible, regional manufacturing clusters that can leverage American know-how and superior productivity.
I hope these seminars will help US to revive the manufacturing. But I'm not really sure how this is going to help. Government should encourage more and more manufacturing with tax incentives for the companies.