Posted at 11:19 AM
Friday, October 7, 2016
From coast to coast, manufacturers built this country. Entire communities and industries rose to prominence on the backs of steelworkers in Pennsylvania, autoworkers in Michigan and semiconductor assembly workers here in Oregon.
For millions of Americans in these communities, manufacturing has been a source of good-paying jobs that pave the way to the middle class, allowing families to earn enough to buy a home, send a kid to college and save for retirement.
These are the opportunities we celebrate today, on Manufacturing Day, at a time when the sector is on the rise. Eight years ago, no one could have predicted that America's manufacturing sector would ever bounce back.
After a half century of steady growth, it took just nine years for the industry to collapse. From 2000 to 2009, our manufacturing sector lost approximately one-third of its workforce. Sixty-thousand factories closed their doors, sending shockwaves through our economy.
Thanks in part to a number of tough decisions made by President Obama, there are roughly 830,000 more American jobs in manufacturing today than six years ago. Even in the face of global headwinds, companies are looking to fill more than 350,000 manufacturing jobs. Here in Oregon, manufacturing employs one out of every 10 workers and contributed about two-thirds of the state's growth over the last year.
American manufacturing is also more agile, more advanced, more diversified than it's ever been. What we make – and the way we make it – is changing. The building blocks for next-generation vehicles, airplanes and infrastructure are carbon fiber, metal powders and composite materials.
Today's manufacturing sector is an innovative, constantly evolving field that can lead to lasting careers and stronger communities. Despite this incredible shift, the word "manufacturing" conjures images of the assembly-line jobs of the past for too many students, teachers and parents.
For the sector to succeed, we need to change that perception. Manufacturing today depends on talented, flexible and imaginative young people pursuing careers in cutting-edge fields like engineering, computer programming and industrial design.
On Manufacturing Day, thousands of factories, research labs and businesses across our country are opening their doors and showcasing what "Made in America" looks like in the 21st century. Students will have the chance to hear directly from young people who are building a manufacturing career.
As part of Manufacturing Day, I had the opportunity to tour Lam Research in Tualatin. The machines at Lam make it possible to build the powerful, yet microscopic components inside our favorite smartphones and tablets. But to stay ahead of the competition, Lam and other manufacturers constantly need new talent and creative ideas, like those of recent college graduate Lauren Bales, who is employed at nearby Boeing.
When Bales went off to college, she wasn't sure what kind of career she wanted. A class in engineering ignited her interest in aerospace. Bales applied to almost every Boeing internship she could find before her persistence paid off.
Today, she is a full-time manufacturing engineer at Boeing. There, she works on the aircraft of the future – planes that will deliver us to our destinations much faster using less energy.
In the next decade there will be an estimated 30,000 manufacturing job openings in Oregon. These opportunities are ripe for the taking. We want to see more young people follow in Bale's footsteps and pursue careers in high-wage, high-demand fields such as industrial engineering, digital automation, machining and computer programming.
Among young people today, manufacturing still ranks last as an career choice. We at the Department of Commerce created Manufacturing Day to help challenge that view for generations to come.
Through recessions and competition from abroad, American manufacturing remains one of our country's greatest success stories. From Samuel Slater's textile mill to Henry Ford's Model T to today's 3D printers, we are a country that innovates, makes and sells to the world.
This Manufacturing Day, we hope that more young people will be inspired to consider careers in a sector that will continue to spur and sustain our dynamic, growing economy for years to come.