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EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PRESIDENT OF ALLIANCE FOR AMERICAN MANUFACTURING

Admin | 07.03.2014

Scott N. Paul is the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) and is based in Washington, DC.  The AAM is one of the most visible champions of American manufacturing.  Scott was recently interviewed by Area Development magazine staff writer – Clare Goldsberry for their 2014 Annual Directory and we would like to share some interesting excerpts from that interview.  Visit areadevelopment.com for a complete transcript of the interview.

Scott N. Paul is the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) and is based in Washington, DC.  The AAM is one of the most visible champions of American manufacturing.  Scott was recently interviewed by Area Development magazine staff writer – Clare Goldsberry for their 2014 Annual Directory and we would like to share some interesting excerpts from that interview.  Visit areadevelopment.com for a complete transcript of the interview.

Clare Goldsberry:  On a recent radio talk show, you commented, “We’re seeing a rebound in manufacturing – specifically in automotive supported by the government bailout of GM.”  It seems, however, that the government isn’t very successful in creating manufacturing jobs.

Scott Paul:  Did the loan guarantees and restructuring work?  Unequivocally, yes.  It’s hard to imagine what would have happened if the government hadn’t intervened.  GM and Chrysler would have gone bankrupt and that would have impacted Ford.  However, it wasn’t the government intervention alone that put the automotive industry back on the fast track.  Many people put off buying a new car during the Great Recession.  With the average age of cars being 11 years old, a lot of folks are in the market for a new vehicle.  Also helping are low interest rates, which make borrowing and buying a car cheaper.  That’s where focused government intervention had positive outcomes.

The results have been encouraging to me.  Chrysler, GM and Ford are no longer in dire financial straits and are investing in production in the US again.  And when you look at employment, manufacturing added about 500,000 jobs since the end of the recession, 320,000 of those in the automotive OEM and supplier sector.  That represents an outsized contribution to the recovery in manufacturing.

Clare Goldsberry:  We hear a lot about the so-called “skills gap.”  Is that real?

Scott Paul:  I like the line from the movie, Field of Dreams:  “If you build it they will come.”  If there are real manufacturing jobs to be had, they will come.  Yes, there are some shortages of skills, but reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that we’re far from a crisis – there’s modest hiring.  However, here’s the challenge:  we’re coming off a period from 1998 to 2010 where there was a paucity of hiring in manufacturing.  There was a whole half a generation where there was just a trickle of hiring compared to the boom days of the 1990s.  Unfortunately, the signal that sends is that manufacturing jobs are on the way out so people need to train in jobs that can’t be outsourced, like healthcare for example.  So that’s what the vocational community responded to.  Everyone was focused on a four year college degree – and that doesn’t change overnight.

Clare Goldsberry:  What should manufacturing be doing to solve this problem and drive young people into manufacturing?

Scott Paul:  We’ve found in our research that people love manufacturing and manufacturing workers.  They just don’t think there are any jobs there.  That’s the primary obstacle – getting more kids interested and parents educated in the fact that manufacturing offers good jobs with good wages.  It’s key to begin steering them into manufacturing jobs.  We’re making progress.  Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEPs) are getting much more into skills training at community colleges.  More community colleges are adding programs to train for manufacturing jobs in their areas.  And many didn’t have these programs for more than a decade, so things aren’t going to change overnight.  It will happen.  It will take resources, and it will be frustrating.  It is a management challenge but it’s solvable.

Warren Carter is the founder of The QualiFind Group and serves clients as a retained executive search consultant in both the AgriFind and ExeQfind practices within The QualiFind Group.  Warren has 17 years of experience in recruiting and executive search for multinational organizations all over the world and is a member of the executive board of directors of IRC Global Executive Search Partners.  Warren can be reached at wcarter@qualifindgroup.com 

 

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