NMW 2005: NAM survey finds exports more crucial; qualified workers lacking

Chicago, IL—Thanks partly to expanding exports and despite a shortage of qualified workers, the U.S. manufacturing sector will likely grow as fast or faster than the nation’s overall economy in 2005, according to the National Manufacturing Week (NMW) 2005 Survey by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).


Chicago, IL— Thanks partly to expanding exports and despite a shortage of qualified workers, the U.S. manufacturing sector will likely grow as fast or faster than the nation’s overall economy in 2005, according to two thirds of 976 respondents to the National Manufacturing Week (NMW) 2005 National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The annual survey garnered a 33% response from 3,000 of the organization’s members, and NAM released its findings at a press conference on the first day of NMW 2005, March 7-10, at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

“This survey tells us the manufacturing recovery that gained real momentum last year will continue to strengthen in 2005,” says John Engler, NAM’s president.

Besides the two-thirds of respondents that expect manufacturing to match or beat U.S. economic performance, “an astonishing 65% report that they’re exporting their products to foreign markets,” explains Engler. “The U.S. Department of Commerce and NAM have been working together to help more small- and medium-sized manufacturers take advantage of opportunities for exports created by new free trade agreements and the movement of the dollar back toward its historical level. It appears our efforts are beginning to pay off. In the long run, expanding exports is the best way to improve our trade imbalance.

“Three fourths of respondents expect exports to either remain at current levels or increase this year. This is most encouraging because almost half the respondents said they had been adversely impacted by the unfair trade practices of other countries. Only 3% of respondents said they expected foreign sales to decrease in 2005.”

NAM’s survey also found that non-wage costs are the biggest concerns of manufacturers. “When asked to rank their biggest concerns, the top four choices were non-wage compensation, such as health care expenses, material costs, energy prices, and taxes,” says Engler.

Help wanted
Engler adds that NAM’s the survey offered some encouragement on the employment front with 40% of respondents saying they intend to hire new workers, up from 31% who planned to add employees last year. Almost half of the respondents (47%) expect employment to stay the same, while only 12% said they expect to reduce their payrolls.

“The emerging employment problem in manufacturing is not a shortage of jobs, but rather a shortage of qualified applicants,” adds Engler. “A full 36% of our members said they have employment positions unfilled right now because they cannot find qualified workers. This confirms what our members have been telling us in recent years, which is that the people applying for manufacturing jobs today simply do not have the math, science, and technological aptitude they need to work in modern manufacturing.”

Engler says NAM recently launched an innovative new marketing and mentoring program, “Dream It! Do It!” in the Kansas City area to help address the growing skills shortage.

“We’re working with local educators, businesses and civic groups to educate bright, young people about the excellent career opportunities in modern manufacturing,” adds Engler. “It’s absolutely essential that we get to work now to develop a capable manufacturing work force for the 21st century. Dream It! Do It! is a pilot program and we are already making plans to expand it to other areas.” NAM is presenting further details about “Dream It! Do It!” this week at NMW 2005.

John Luke, Jr., NAM’s chairman, says the 2005 survey confirms that manufacturers are generally upbeat about the economy, with most members expecting moderate to strong growth in 2005. “Manufacturing has been through a tough patch in recent years, but we have turned the corner,” adds Luke. “Last year, manufacturing grew faster than the overall economy for the first time in five years. And going into 2005, it looks like the expansion is still strong.”

For more information, or to read the survey’s complete results, visit www.nam.org/nmwsurvey .

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jim Montague, news editor

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