Labor Day Survey: Government Policies Creating a Disadvantage for Manufacturing Sector

Sept. 2, 2010
Majority believe developing a strong manufacturing base should be a national priority

Americans expressed faith in the countrys workforce but voiced concerns that government policies may be putting the manufacturing sector at a disadvantage and dissuading Americans from pursuing production jobs, according to a new Labor Day survey from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.

The survey indicates that 78% of Americans have a strong view of the significance of manufacturing, seeing it as very important to the countrys economic prosperity. A similar number of respondents, 76%, indicate that manufacturing is very important to the standard of living in the United States.

Further, the public believes that the American worker is ready and able to participate in a healthy manufacturing sector. When asked to select from a list of 21 attributes that make American manufacturing globally competitive, respondents identified the top three as: work ethic, skilled workforce and productivity -- well ahead of non-workforce related attributes like infrastructure and natural resources.

Respondents also looked at the attributes that give the United States an advantage over other nations -- again naming our skilled workforce as a top attribute alongside technology, and research and development capabilities.

"These findings fly in the face of the commonly held sentiment that Americans no longer have faith in manufacturing and that the workforce has lost its ability to compete with other parts of the world when it comes to making things. In point of fact, the public has plenty of faith in the American worker, as well as our technology and research capabilities," said Craig Giffi, vice chairman and Deloittes consumer & industrial products industry leader in the United States.

Giffi also notes that the public is surprisingly enthusiastic about charting a course that will ensure the manufacturing industrys future, citing the fact that 75% of survey respondents believe that the United States needs a more strategic approach to developing its manufacturing base. Moreover, he observes roughly the same percentage believe the country should invest more in the manufacturing industry, while 68% believe developing a strong manufacturing base should be a national priority.

"So, why aren't American workers going into manufacturing? asks Giffi. He says that the answer can be found in the survey results, which indicate that respondents are insecure about the future health of the manufacturing industry: 55% think the long term outlook for American manufacturing is weaker than today, and only 30% of respondents would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.

The survey shows that this trepidation is tied directly to concerns over government policies. Respondents consistently identified government-related factors as the biggest obstacles to the success of manufacturing in the United States; specifically policies relating to business, tax rates on individuals, and both state and federal leadership in this area.

Emily DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute, points out that the public's concerns about manufacturing "do not lie in a poor image of what the jobs are like, as many people seem to think." She explains that the majority of survey respondents, in fact, see manufacturing as futuristic. "When asked if manufacturing is high-tech, 63% of respondents strongly agree or agree, and the same amount strongly agree or agree that it requires well-educated, highly skilled workers," DeRocco said.

DeRocco sums up the survey by explaining that if the public does not think there is a national manufacturing direction, people are not likely to pursue jobs in the sector or support the construction of new plants in their communities.

Further, she explains that it is hard to imagine a moment in recent history when it has been so important to take advantage of the public's faith in the workforce by investing in training and educating the workers of the future -- largely because the industry has taken some serious blows in the wake of the global recession, losing two million manufacturing jobs as a direct result of the economic meltdown.

"The bottom line," says DeRocco, "is that we must reconcile America's belief in the prowess of our workforce with its concerns about policy disadvantages -- or we could face discouraging reports for many Labor Days to come."

For more information and to download the survey click here.

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