Manufacturing in the 21st century is highly efficient and productive. This means relatively small numbers of workers can be as productive as whole armies of 19th or even 20th century workers. Today, while manufacturing employs only 13.6% of the total workforce in North Carolina, it leads all industry sectors in North Carolina in its share of the state's GDP: 19.35%. In contrast, the healthcare and social assistance sector employs more people, at 16.6% of the state workforce, but contributes far less to GDP.
Manufacturing workers today are also better compensated than their historical counterparts. A variety of factors influence the value of manufacturing labor, from collective bargaining to competition for scarce skills to the growth of new industries. Part of the increase is due to the nature of modern manufacturing, in which the simple assembly line has practically disappeared. Many manufacturing jobs now involve highly skilled employees working in clean environments and technologically advanced settings, and such workers come at a premium. North Carolina manufacturing provides above-average-wage jobs to 400,000 people.
Today, many companies face a shortage of skilled workers as the baby boom generation retires and younger people pursue other career paths. The National Association of Manufacturers' Manufacturing Institute in 2011 published Boiling Point? The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing, in which 67% of survey respondents reported a "moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers," and 56% reported that they expected the shortage to worsen over the next three to five years.
Can anything be done to counteract those shortages, and attract skilled workers to manufacturing jobs? Often, young people avoid manufacturing due to the stigma of industrial careers, without realizing that modern manufacturing can be quite different from the stereotypical soot-stained factories. We hope to overcome that stereotype by pointing out that modern industrial products -- and the factories that make them -- are sophisticated and complex, and require workers who are educated, motivated and creative. For those who are up to the challenge, a career in manufacturing can be very rewarding. And if the shortage of skilled workers worsens, manufacturers will likely cope with it by offering even higher wages to workers with specialized skills.
Manufacturing is the second-largest employment sector in North Carolina, but contributes the most to the state GDP. (Source: US Census Bureau - State & County Facts - North Carolina.) Click chart for larger version. View Chart as Text Data (D-Link)
Manufacturers pay well for the skills they need. Manufacturing wages in North Carolina rank eighth among the 19 different industrial sector categories, with an average weekly wage of $854 or $21.35 per hour. Workers with specialty skills, of course, make more. Manufacturing wages are higher on average than healthcare and social assistance, construction, education and retail. (Source: US Census Bureau - State & County Facts - North Carolina.) Click chart for larger version. View Chart as Text Data (D-Link)