What is in this article?:
- Manufacturing Universities: A Catalytic Step Toward Revitalizing American Manufacturing
- Manufacturing Universities Act of 2014
The United States needs to forge stronger industry-university research collaborations and also incentivize universities to focus more on training students with the requisite skills to support U.S. engineering-based industries.
Copyright by Matt Cardy
While there are some signs that American manufacturing is beginning to recover from the unprecedented losses of the 2000s, the reality is that U.S. manufacturing value added still has not recovered from the Great Recession, and in 2012 remained 7.4% below 2007 levels.
While some believe that America’s manufacturing recovery has already “turned the corner,” the truth is that policymakers have much more work to do in establishing an institutional environment that supports the competitiveness of America’s manufacturing economy on a sustainable basis.
This will include lowering the corporate tax rate and increasing trade enforcement, among other steps. But one component should be establishing a national system of “manufacturing universities” that incentivize post-secondary university programs to focus more on advanced manufacturing, while producing graduates better equipped with the knowledge and skills needed for careers in emerging, innovation-based industries.
Creating a network of U.S. manufacturing universities would address several systemic challenges that plague America’s manufacturing economy.
First, in recent years, university engineering education has shifted away from a focus on real problem solving toward more abstract engineering science, leaving university engineering departments more concerned with producing pure knowledge than in working with industry to address their challenges.
One consequence of this has been that American universities attract far less industry funding per researcher than universities in competitor nations do. For example, The World Academic Summit Innovation Index finds that, of 30 nations, the United States ranks just 14th in attracting industry funding per university researcher, with Korean researchers receiving, on average, four times as much industry funding ($97,900) than their American peers ($25,800).
A second challenge has been that America’s high schools and universities have not been producing sufficient numbers of graduates with the skills manufacturing employers need. For instance, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers contends that the number of unfilled manufacturing jobs—due to manufacturing employers being unable to find individuals with the skills they require—could increase to 3 million by 2015.
In short, the United States needs to forge stronger industry-university research collaborations and also incentivize universities to focus more on training students with the requisite skills to support U.S. engineering-based industries.