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Distributor's Link Magazine Winter Issue 2012 / VOL 35 / NO.1


30 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Advanced Technology Services Inc. 8201 N University St # 1, Peoria, IL 61615 Tel: 1-800-328-7287 Fax: 309-693-4164 Email: 2012 BUSINESS PROGNOSIS by Don Johnson of ATS The forecast for the 2012 business year is a promising one, particularly with regards to the US manufacturing industry, which is poised for revival. Despite overall economic conditions, the ISM index reports manufacturing to be in its 26th successive month of growth. This steady progress, compounded by the return of manufacturing jobs from abroad, indicates that quite a bit of headway will be made in the upcoming year—pending the resolution of one major obstacle. There is an acute dearth of qualified, able and willing workers to fill the positions on the factory floors. With vast numbers of skilled manufacturing employees on the brink of retirement, there are not nearly enough individuals rising to take their places. The majority of individuals entering the workforce, whether they hail from a vocational school, college, or directly from high school, are not pursing careers in manufacturing. The contemporary professional culture in the United States has overlooked industrial skilled trades as a viable career path. The general impression of manufacturing work is a misnomer, recalling images of low-wage, dead-end assembly jobs in hazardous environments. As such, students are groomed by both parents and school faculty to pursue careers only in white-collar professions that require college degrees, regardless of their aptitude or level of motivation. Additionally, once popular apprentice programs that supplied so many manufacturing workers have fallen to the wayside. This widespread abandonment of skilled trades comes, in large part, from a dramatic swing in the American attitude following World War II. The manufacturing boom brought on by the second Great War managed to pull the country from its devastating depression, resulting in the mass production of B-24s, tanks, machine guns, and other artillery. The camaraderie of the common goal was enough. Following the war, the strong manufacturing industry resulted in incredible prosperity for the nation as a whole. Tract housing and mass car production cultivated and established the current suburban middle-class value system. Parents, possibly associating manufacturing with wartime hardships and necessity, began to highlight college as the only path to success. Eventually careers in manufacturing became less attractive. Moreover, the trend towards over-seas and crossborder manufacturing facilities and the general outsourcing of labor is recent years has managed to push the skilled trades even further into the background. And so, from an apparent lack of availability of trade skilled positions, combined with the white-collar-centric career path embedded within U.S. cultural mores, manufacturing has fallen by the wayside. This history of outsourcing and miseducation has resulted in an extreme shortage or welders, machinists, and highly specialized skilled technicians. For example, according the American Welders Society, the number of welders in the United States has reached serious lows. The AWS reports that the current welding market requires 200,000 additional workers. These statistics do not even take into account the aging employment base that will soon exit the workforce. The majority of welders are in their mid-fifties, and many are aged sixty and above. The demand for welders is at its highest in years, and it is unclear where these future workers will come from. please turn to page 130


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