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The Great American Workforce

The Great American Workforce
Distribution GrayWay

A talented and robust workforce is the number one consideration for executives when they consider a new location for their operations. Although the currently tight labor market is no secret, the American workforce is attractive to international companies’ worker productivity, training and innovation. 

U.S. workers are highly productive. For example, the American workforce is 35% more productive than the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (an international economic development group consisting of 36 countries) member country average—a big reason why foreign companies invest in the U.S. 

The productivity of the American worker is, in part, due to the high labor standards in the U.S., including labor laws that require a safe and high quality work environment. U.S. companies also invest heavily in new equipment and training to maintain their competitive edge and retain their workers, especially in manufacturing. State workforce development agencies often collaborate with industry firms, colleges and universities to create customized training programs for local industries. Georgia’s QuickStart program, for example, has trained more than one million employees for 6,500 projects, typically at no cost to the employer.

According to the Reshoring Initiative, the combined reshoring and related foreign direct investment (FDI) efforts added more than 145,000 domestic jobs in 2018, raising the total number of announced manufacturing jobs brought to the U.S. from offshore to over 757,000 over the last decade. One of the top reasons that companies come back to the U.S. is the higher productivity of the American worker, which results in improved product quality, fewer errors and material waste, streamlined production and faster speed to market. 

Changing Workforce Demographics

With a growing shortage of skilled workers, many employers are trying to convince their older employees to stay on. Another reason is that these companies are less familiar with the traits and attitudes of younger millennial workers, which require a different approach for training and engagement. 

Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials are now the largest segment in the U.S. workforce. By 2030, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.

Companies target tech-savvy millennials to fill the nearly 2.4 million manufacturing positions that could be open by 2028.

Millennials are “first-generation digital natives” who were raised on technology and use it to communicate and interact with others, including fellow employees in the workplace. With their tech abilities, millennials can easily be trained to become the “new collar” workers of the future, to fill some of the nearly 2.4 million manufacturing positions that will be available between 2018 and 2028.

However, the challenge with millennials is that once they are trained, they must also be engaged, or they will likely leave.

According to Dynamic Signal, a mobile communications company, only 29% of millennials are engaged on the job, compared to 55% who are not engaged and 16% who are actively disengaged. They also change jobs more frequently than other generations. About 21% of millennials reported switching jobs within the last year and 60% are open to different opportunities. “Forty-three percent of millennials envision leaving their jobs within two years, while only 28% seek to stay beyond five years,” states Dynamic Signal. “The 15-point gap is a seven-point increase from the previous year.” 

Taking the Pledge

To prioritize partnerships with public and private-sector organizations that are focused on ensuring the workforce can meet the needs of a 21st century economy, the U.S. government recently launched the “Pledge to America’s Workers,” an initiative to create more than 900,000 workforce development opportunities. The White House administration also created the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board to build a national workforce strategy, with guidance from top leaders in business, education, organized labor, government, trade associations and nonprofits. 

SelectUSA believes this strategy will help build and promote the many pathways to good careers, provide greater jobs data transparency, increase skills-based hiring and measure and encourage employer-led training.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.