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“Manufacturing Universities” to Bridge Gap between Education and Tech

LibraryIndustry Week recently reported on a meeting regarding U.S. manufacturing at the Brookings Institute. The short of it: U.S. manufacturing is coming back, but more innovation can help it thrive.

Here are the key takeaways. Those just at the precipice of a secondary education, or those looking to get training and acquire a job that will support their families should take notes.

  • 2.7 million  manufacturing workers are expected to retire between and five years from now.
  • 40 percent of manufacturing jobs will require post-secondary education as factories become more technologically sophisticated.

Gregg Fischer who is a former manufacturing CEO pointed to jobs such as those in industrial technicians in particular as needing new workers. The field has diminished over the last 10 to 15 years of offshoring and retirement. He defined these positions as “rock star” positions, which were absolutely necessary to manufacturers and where workers could expect to make between $80,000 to $100,000 a year. Sounds like another high-paid manufacturing job that we reported on, and that surprises many.

​Manufacturing Universities

​Another proposed idea to come out of the discussion was to create 20 “U.S. Manufacturing Universities” that would receive $25 million each from the National Science Foundation and preferred consideration for NSF grants. These schools would have to change existing programs to focus engineering on manufacturing. They would also:

  • Stress joint university-industry research projects
  • Provide cooperative education experience
  • Provide Ph.D. programs designed where students would be required to have professional experience in the manufacturing field.
  • Doctoral programs will be similar to high-level apprenticeships

Innovation Hubs

Additionally innovation hubs focused around certain industries were proposed. These would include: aerospace, automotive assembly, advance energy systems, information technology and medical devices.

One of the speakers stressed that these industries account for 10 percent of the U.S. economy and provide 45 percent of our goods exports, while also supporting over 4 million high-skilled and several million more ancillary jobs.

In the model proposed these hubs would be overseen by the federal government in cooperation with the private sector and be put to work on issues such as “carbon capture and storage, solar photovoltaics, smart grids, nonomanufacturing, and industrial robotics”


Yet another idea proposed was to further increase competitiveness regionally amongst manufacturers. In this model manufacturing education and advanced training would be favored. The competition would be spurred by leaders in private industry and certain markers would be taken to track progress and determine winners.

If anything the result of the discussion was that manufacturing will remain an important part of the U.S. economy in the future and will likely become even more so. This thriving field, which touches nearly every imaginable industry will continue to need workers, and highly-skilled workers at that, to keep manufacturing going in increasingly technological factories. The consensus is that these workers will be well-paid for their efforts.

photo credit: 96dpi via photopin cc

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