The manufacturing sector is one of the economy’s most fundamental drivers, as evidenced by the instrumental role it has played in generating economic growth throughout the nation’s history. Manufacturing is once again proving vital as it’s been a significant factor in America’s recovery from the Great Recession. In recent years, the federal government and private sector have introduced initiatives that seek to propel growth in American manufacturing, while also encouraging innovation in the sector. So, how successful have these policy efforts been? What does the future hold for American manufacturing? And how can U.S. institutions build on the momentum of a promising American manufacturing renaissance?
On July 10, Governance Studies at Brookings hosted a half-day conference focused on manufacturing and which policy ideas and reforms could best benefit workforce productivity and innovation in the sector.
Executives from Alcoa Inc. and Pfizer Inc. examined innovations that have occurred in their business, and discussed the challenges they face in maintaining a commitment to high quality products in a competitive industry that emphasizes volume and efficiency. They also addressed America’s cultural emphasis on the importance of postsecondary education, noting that many manufacturing jobs do not require even a four-year degree.
Representatives of the Congressional Research Service and IDA Science & Technology Policy Institute discussed the difficulties facing the manufacturing workforce as plant labor becomes increasingly automated.
In the third panel, John White of Taco Inc., the Honorable David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Governance Studies Fellow Elisabeth Jacobs discussed the phenomenon of workplace education and the role the federal government can play in training the workforce to innovate and improve productivity in the manufacturing sector.