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Manufacturers: Our Front-Line Defense Against COVID-19

Oct. 12, 2020
These are the people keeping shelves stocked, working on the next potential vaccine for COVID-19 and solving any problem that comes their way.

As the rate of COVID-19 cases ebbs and flows throughout the country, manufacturers have risen to the challenge in much the same way they did during WWII and other times of national crisis. Working day and night and over the weekends, they have helped us emerge from the early days of the pandemic by keeping shop floors open and making vital products, including the medical supplies and protective equipment people need to fight the coronavirus. Now manufacturing workers are spearheading our recovery, ensuring that the American economy reopens and generates prosperity. And we’ll need many, many more of them.

We were amazed by all the stories we encountered about manufacturing teams working at a breakneck pace every day of the week—especially during the early months of the pandemic—to fulfill urgent orders and keep supply chains running. The men and women of manufacturing have proven themselves time and time again to be dedicated, driven and eager to improve the lives of others. These people are the ones keeping shelves stocked, working on the next potential vaccine for COVID-19 and solving any problem that comes their way.

As the pandemic has shown, America is still a manufacturing nation. Robots, automation and digital technology are not spelling the demise of manufacturing jobs—they’re augmenting the work manufacturers do and making them even more productive. And these new advances also have made it easier for manufacturers to practice social distancing on the shop floor, helping to keep them safe during the pandemic.

Modern manufacturers include iconic global brands as well as family-owned small businesses. Three-quarters of manufacturing firms have fewer than 20 employees. And manufacturers are well-paid, with the average manufacturing worker earning over $87,000 annually in 2018, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis data. (To arrive at this figure, we divided total U.S. manufacturing compensation for 2018 by the number of people employed in the manufacturing industry).

Before the pandemic, there were not enough manufacturing workers to go around—and today, there are still about 300,000 open manufacturing jobs. A 2018 study from The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte estimated that manufacturers would need to fill 4.6 million jobs over the next decade as businesses grew and Baby Boomers retired. Now and for years to come, manufacturers will be saying, “Creators Wanted.” There’s room for all kinds of talented people in manufacturing, regardless of whether you’re a high school graduate, former military or have an advanced degree.  And manufacturers are doing their part to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces, expanding their efforts to recruit people of color at all levels of their organization. 

That’s why The Manufacturing Institute is making sure Americans are aware of the millions of opportunities available to them. As the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, we organize MFG Day every October—it’s a nationwide day of action in which thousands of manufacturers open their doors to Americans who want to learn more about the industry and about the advantages of a career in manufacturing. Last year, 325,000 people participated in events across the country, and this year many will do so virtually. In fact, this year’s celebration is taking place throughout the month of October, Manufacturing Month, and is unique in that it will allow Americans to tour shop floors and career opportunities while at home throughout the month.

Throughout history, manufacturers have acted heroically—to protect our country and save lives. The pandemic was no exception, and manufacturing workers are a major reason why our country is on the road to renewal. If you’re ready to make a difference, pursue a career in manufacturing.  

Jay Timmons is the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. Carolyn Lee is the executive director of The Manufacturing Institute. 

About the Author

Jay Timmons

Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.

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