No matter your political leanings, there’s been a lot of talk this past year about American manufacturing jobs thanks to November’s presidential election. However, as a recent Kronos survey found, while Americans are concerned about manufacturing job loss, most know very little about how the industry works or that some industry jobs are actually in high demand. In fact, less than a quarter of Americans know that the manufacturing industry offers well-paying jobs and few consider manufacturing to be an “interesting and growing” industry– despite evidence to the contrary.

As an executive search consultant specializing in manufacturing, I’ve spent the last 35 years getting an insider’s look into this ever-changing global marketplace. Most recently, I’ve watched as the industry experienced a boomerang in job loss and growth, going from significant loss to a slow albeit steady recovery. Just a decade ago, pundits said the new norm for the unemployment rate would be 7%. Last November, that rate fell to 4.6 percent– the lowest since 2007.

Here’s where the industry currently stands and what we can expect in early 2017:

American manufacturing is recovering.

In the 2000s, U.S. manufacturing suffered its “worst performance in American history” and manufacturing jobs declined in all 50 states. Today, the future of American manufacturing is more promising than anyone could have imagined a decade ago. Reshoring and foreign direct investment are bringing back jobs in industries such as electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing, transportation equipment manufacturing, and apparel manufacturing.

Recently, I worked with a telecom client who has a plant located in Dallas. While much of the industry moved jobs overseas, the client kept all their electronics manufacturing right here in the United States. When discussing their decision not to offshore, the client told me, “We ran the numbers from all angles and we didn’t see the ROI other companies were talking about. In fact, we see it as cost prohibitive. Our other concern is a drop in quality, which even with the cost savings would be unacceptable.”

In-demand skill sets include LEAN, SIX Sigma, Operations Excellence and Continuous Improvement.
From bringing the Internet of Things (IoT) to the factory floor to managing complex international supply chains, manufacturing professionals who excel at logistics management are joining the C-suite and earning six-figure salaries. Many of these technology-savvy, metrics-driven professionals hold certifications such as CPSM (Certified Professional in Supply Chain Management) and CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Management). They’re faster learners, confident decision makers and able to master new information quickly to keep up with the rapid pace of development. Companies are creating new roles and hiring candidates with a background in LEAN, SIX Sigma, Operations Excellence and Continuous Improvement.

There are more jobs than we can fill, but job candidates need to be willing to relocate.

One trend I’m seeing: there are plenty of jobs, but not enough candidates willing to take these jobs. The majority of candidates I work with who are unemployed are also reluctant to make the sacrifices they need to make in order to go back to work. Many of these candidates are unwilling to relocate, unwilling to take compensation cuts, and unwilling to consider jobs outside their comfort zone or previous experience. In fact, I’ve watched as individuals have turned down positions only to drain their savings– all because they didn’t want to relocate. As manufacturing companies become more automated and rely on robotics, candidates need to be willing to master new skill sets and consider relocating for open positions.

Manufacturing is entering a new, dynamic era.

From 3D printing to advanced robotics, technology innovations are reshaping the manufacturing industry. In established markets, like the United States, increased demand for customization and after-sales service is also creating new opportunities and challenges. Supply chain management, volatile resource pricing and regulatory compliance pose new risks. While labor-intensive industries are likely to follow the path of low wages, industries with more complex needs must hire a computer-savvy workforce capable of managing enterprise network data and complex supply chains.


Are you currently searching for a new position in manufacturing? For more information on available positions and required skills, contact me at