With advanced manufacturing, blue collar jobs continue to give way to automation, while white collar and STEM jobs grow to support the new technologies. The net result is, the entire future of advanced manufacturing hinges on having a highly educated workforce, according to a new study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
The report, “Advanced Manufacturing in the United States: The Shift Toward Diversified Industries and an Educated Workforce,” examined 35 manufacturing sectors identified by the Brookings Institution and evaluated the connection between the growth of educational attainment and the development of advanced manufacturing. Employment in the sectors was broken up into three occupational groups: STEM, white-collar, and blue-collar occupations. The study noted the changes in share of employment in advanced manufacturing compared with the share of adult population with associate’s degrees or higher.
“We find that changes in education are positively related to changes in share of advanced manufacturing sector employment and establishments,” said the report authors. “This is yet another clear piece of evidence pointing to the important role that an educated workforce places in long-term prospects for advanced manufacturing.”
Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, told Plant Services that college graduates are leading job growth in the manufacturing sector. Hicks says that as automated technologies continued to replace blue collar workers, there are increasing opportunities for engineers, architects, designers and managers. “We’re getting people moving off the floor. … They’re watching displays, doing laser tests and quality-control analysis,” Hicks said.
Manufacturers not only will need to fill welders’ and machinists’ positions, but also those of engineers and IT technicians. Val Zanichuk, president of Graphicast in Jaffrey, NH, told the New Hampshire Business Review that there’s a growing shortage of educated workers needed to fill these roles. He said that as the technology advances, so too does the educational requirements, and getting the public’s support in advancing such education can help build the industry.
“Over time, the amount of technology on the floor changes…as companies advance, it requires skills that are evolving. You have to evolve with those changes,” he said.