Economists, business and government leaders all keep a close eye on the fortunes of the U.S. manufacturing sector, knowing the impact it has on the broader business environment. But what about the public? After all, their views of the manufacturing sector help shape public policy and have a direct impact on the talent pool. If you have a dim view of manufacturing, you’re not likely to pursue a manufacturing job or support the construction of a new plant in your community.
Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute’s recent survey of the American public’s opinions on the manufacturing industry and its future show a nation that is surprisingly bullish on the skills and abilities of our workforce in the face of global competition. They believe manufacturing is vital to our nation’s economy, and believe U.S. workers bring the right mix of skills and motivation to the table. Plus, they think the strength of the workforce is one of the most important factors in our success. When asked to select from a list of 21 attributes that could contribute to creating a competitive advantage or disadvantage for American manufacturing globally, respondents identified the top three most important as work ethic, a skilled workforce, and worker productivity — well ahead of non-workforce related attributes such as infrastructure and natural resources.
But at the same time, Americans are concerned about U.S. government policies and leadership in the area of manufacturing — respondents singled out state and federal government leadership, tax rates on individuals, and government business policies as their three top areas of concern. In short, they believe we have what it takes — but they’re not seeing the type of leadership and policies required to keep the manufacturing industry healthy and successful in the long run. So it should come as no surprise that they are less likely to pursue jobs in manufacturing or encourage their children to consider these jobs in the future.