Preparing for a Sea Change in U.S. Manufacturing: Forsyth Tech Takes the Lead

People at a confrence

For more than 30 years, the U.S. manufacturing industry witnessed an exodus in manufacturing operations to countries overseas where wages and other operational costs were much lower. Now, many of those operations are returning to the U.S. The American manufacturing industry is again starting to thrive and is no longer characterized by dirty, dark and dismal working conditions. Today’s manufacturing work environments are dynamic, technology-driven and clean.

But there’s a problem. While the industry is reinventing itself, public perception isn’t shifting as fast as the technology. This is creating a shortage of skilled workers on a global scale as well as right here in the Piedmont Triad. Forsyth Tech, along with other community colleges, is charged with providing the education and training needed to meet the demands of today’s manufacturing jobs.

To address these issues, Forsyth Tech, in partnership with the economic and workforce development consulting firm, Regionnovate, hosted a meeting this summer at Richard Childress Racing in Welcome entitled, “Regional Roundtable for Talent Development for Additive and Disruptive Manufacturing.” More than 75 representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Small Business Administration, Piedmont Triad Partnership, regional businesses and Triad community colleges explored the challenges, opportunities and action steps that must be taken to address manufacturing’s constantly changing environment.

The group’s recommendations included:

  • Launching a quarterly Regional Manufacturer’s forum to discuss the ongoing workforce development needs in manufacturing
  • Creating a youth and student regional “Maker Movement” to engage younger audiences in intriguing, competitive manufacturing activities
  • Developing a “Piedmont Triad Year of Manufacturing” marketing campaign to help change old perceptions of manufacturing
  • Promoting the importance of entrepreneurial, innovation-inspired manufacturing that positions the Piedmont Triad on a national and global scale

This roundtable was the first of others that will be taking place around the country this year to address, on a national scale, the challenges facing the manufacturing industry.

Forsyth Tech has taken the lead regionally to drive the process of determining what additional training must be integrated into the curriculums of community colleges to meet the employment needs of area manufacturers.