Written on: October 5th, 2015 in Job Creation
Manufacturing has long been a source of quality jobs for many of our citizens, and of quality products to export the Delaware brand throughout the country and around the world. Manufacturing Week provides an opportunity to both celebrate these contributions, while committing to working as a state to support the changing industry – recognizing that a strong manufacturing sector today looks different than in decades past.
The industry took a hit, like many others, in the aftermath of the 2008 recession. Delawareans experienced this dramatically, with the closing of the GM and Chrysler plants. Faced with that challenge, our state needed to figure out how to rebound and grow in an era when companies have more choices than ever about where to locate and are moving towards greater levels of automation in their production. This presents challenges, but it also presents a significant opportunity if we can seize on this new direction. With automation comes the need for more workers with an enhanced skill set – one that can handle tasks of quality control and operations management, and possesses the greater knowledge of science and math that new technology requires. Fortunately, in Delaware, we have had a workforce with the abilities to develop these skills, as long as the training opportunities are made available to them.
Its why, after the loss of thousands of jobs in the recession, we began to invest in workforce training at record levels. Since 2009, thousands of Delawareans have taken advantage of retraining programs for current workers, many of which are specifically directed to train people in the sort of advanced manufacturing techniques needed to take advantage of the new direction the field is moving. Participants have set themselves up to obtain better paying jobs –in the manufacturing sector and in other key fields. That effort is in addition to increased career training opportunities in our schools for the next generation of workers.
Manufacturing employers now cite workforce talent as the number one factor in their site selection process and Delaware has been able to attract advanced manufacturing businesses in recent years. They are companies like Uzin Utz, which is developing new types of industrial grade flooring and has picked Dover to establish new operations, and AB Packaging, whose CEO said his management team “was completely bowled over by the ‘can do’ attitude, fantastic training centers and support structure” in the state.
We continue to work our way back from significant losses in the manufacturing sector, but, in part due to these efforts, Delaware’s job growth since the depths of the recession outpaces the country’s and all of our neighboring states.
The manufacturing industry, and the hardworking men and women who work in it, have always proven resilient. Their history is one of always adapting to change, and of emerging stronger than before. As manufacturing enters a new phase, it’s clear Delawareans are up to the challenge of building an industry that gives our citizens good job opportunities for years to come.