After the recession, the U.S. economy looks very different than it did just five years ago. There’s persistent unemployment, a widening income gap, fewer homeowners and rising debt. While these trends are certainly worrisome, there is another difference that’s more positive: U.S. manufacturing is making a comeback.
But even manufacturing looks different than it has in years past.
meaning that it’s more affordable to employ workers locally. At the same time, U.S. organized labor is not as prevalent; fewer workers are unionized which has made it more affordable to employ American workers generally. Finally, the hidden costs
associated with manufacturing are rising; managing operations halfway around the world, along with high turnover, inconsistent quality and inadequate protection of intellectual property are making it more affordable to manufacture onshore where
operations can be monitored more closely.
Not only have the conditions benefiting local industry changed, but so too has the type of work. U.S. manufacturing has shifted from scale to skill — the quality of goods is increasingly important; quantity less so.
are making it more important for manufacturing employees to be highly-skilled, especially in the STEM fields.
It’s increasingly important for cities, then, to link local residents to vocational and other training opportunities. At the 2014 Forbes Reinventing America Summit last week, Cheryl Hyman, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, talked about how Chicago is trying to address the “skilled trades gap”: they are making an effort to engage technology companies so the college can tailor curricula to meet the needs of industry. Hyman also discussed the importance in rebranding industrial so that younger residents –
and importantly, their parents – understand how industry has
evolved from “dirty” assembly line jobs to highly-skilled work.
The evolved industrial economy provides a foothold for inner city residents to access well-paying jobs. ICIC research
indicates that the median full-time salary for industrial workers is $45,000, which represents a 200% increase over minimum wage and 40% increase over median retail wages. Moreover, 65% of indus