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In manufacturing, the future is hiring now — and we need many, many more people to join us

In Minnesota and across America, manufacturers are saying “creators wanted,” with nearly half a million manufacturing jobs open right now.

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Jay Timmons
It is now a given that virtual reality is considered the next frontier in gaming, but what surprises many people is that its close cousin, augmented reality, is part of the next frontier in modern manufacturing. As manufacturers deploy the technology, manufacturing employees are donning VR-type headsets to assemble and repair complex machines.

This is just one example of the many ways modern manufacturing is pulling us into the future. Harnessing technologies like artificial intelligence, co-bots — or robots that work collaboratively with humans — and 3-D printing, the industry is reinventing itself while at the same time developing life changing products.

Leading innovation has long been the story of manufacturing in America. Much has changed over the years, but one thing has not: Manufacturing is about people. Today in America, more than 12.8 million people have jobs in modern manufacturing. About 320,000 Minnesotans work in the industry. And yet, we need many, many more people to join us.

‘Creators wanted’

That is the message the National Association of Manufacturers is bringing to Minnesota this week as part of this year’s NAM State of Manufacturing Tour. In Minnesota and across America, manufacturers are saying “creators wanted,” with nearly half a million manufacturing jobs open right now.

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Manufacturing jobs will continue to open for the foreseeable future — including high-tech, high-paying jobs like coders, technicians, programmers, designers and more. A recent study from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and education partner of the NAM, reveals that manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs in the next decade. On top of that, the study found that we will only have enough qualified workers to fill less than half of those jobs if more people don’t start joining our industry.

That is why we are traveling the country promoting the promising opportunities that Americans of all ages have to build a rewarding career in our industry. In Minnesota, we are visiting global power sports leader and recreational vehicles manufacturer Polaris and Protolabs, the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for rapid prototyping and on-demand production.

Modern manufacturing jobs give people the chance to build something that matters — from the fuel that powers our lives to lifesaving medicines, from the latest smart devices to the rockets that will take humans back to the moon and onward to Mars.

On the tour, we will also be calling on our elected officials to ensure that nothing holds back manufacturing’s progress. We know there will be economic headwinds. But we can reach our full potential by advancing policies that uphold the values that have made America exceptional: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.

USMCA, infrastructure, immigration fix

For example, manufacturers want to see final approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as well as a trade deal to hold China accountable and secure relief from costly tariffs.

Americans deserve 21st-century infrastructure, so manufacturers are advocating major investments in our roads, bridges, ports, waterways, pipes, pipelines, electric grid and airports — as well as development of communications infrastructure like 5G technology.

We also want to secure a real solution for our broken immigration situation. We need a comprehensive and lasting fix — to protect families, Dreamers, our economy and our national security.

When we make progress on these fronts, and bring more people into the manufacturing workforce, manufacturers will be able to reach our full potential. And that should be a priority for any citizen or leader, regardless of their background — because the backbone of a strong American economy will always be a strong manufacturing industry.

Manufacturers are building the future, and the future is hiring now. There’s nothing virtual about that reality.

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Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the NAM.

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