anufacturing employers are facing a supply challenge — but it has nothing to do with raw materials. They simply can’t hire fast enough. This hurts not only the industry but also workers, particularly people of color, who miss out on in-demand careers.
Employers in May 2022 posted more than 800,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs, driven by rising consumer demand coupled with new federal investments in infrastructure. By 2030, there could be 2.1 million unfilled manufacturing jobs, costing $1 trillion in lost productivity.
Too little has been invested in training for these critical jobs. Federal funding for technical education has plummeted by 45% in inflation-adjusted terms since 2004. Even when workers complete training, there’s a leaky pipeline: The National Student Clearinghouse found that fewer than half of trainees get jobs in manufacturing, and for Black and Hispanic workers, the outcomes are worse. About 70% of manufacturing workers are men, and two-thirds are white.
To address this challenge — and convince workers that modern manufacturing is a cutting-edge career choice — we need strategic partnerships among employers, community colleges, training providers and community advocates to sharpen skills, engage communities of color and build pipelines from entry level jobs to supervisory roles.
That’s why Lumina Foundation, The Century Foundation and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance are partnering to create a model of credentialing programs at 12 community colleges to build pathways for workers of color and women across manufacturing careers. This cohort of colleges, six of which are minority-serving institutions, is showing early promising results:
These and other community colleges are showing a strong start — but we have plenty of work ahead. As manufacturing talent shortages continue, employers will need to think and partner differently.
The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) says partnering with cohort member institution Lorain County Community College and facilitating the Ohio TechNet (OTN) consortium has been an indispensable part of the statewide strategy to meet manufacturers’ workforce needs. The partnership between the college and career and technical partners is strong because of the institutions’ and workforce leadership’s strong collaboration, OMA Workforce Services Managing Director Sara Tracey said.
“We are proud that Ohio is demonstrating new ways for higher education and industry to work together to solve the workforce challenges we’re all facing,” she said. “That means not just filling jobs but highlighting careers. And working together to bring new talent into the sector, including those who are underrepresented — women, people of color, veterans, returning citizens.”
Our most powerful recruiting tool is to welcome, train and promote a diverse, racially inclusive, highly skilled manufacturing workforce of the future.
Kermit Kaleba is the strategy director of employment-aligned credential programs for Lumina Foundation, an independent foundation that works for racial equity as it helps all Americans learn beyond high school. Michelle Burris is a fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank that pursues economic, racial and gender equity. Their partner on this project is The Urban Manufacturing Alliance, which supports small- and mid-sized manufacturers and creates equitable, essential career pathways to the middle class.