Central Massachusetts is no stranger to the manufacturing industry. The region has a long, proud history in the field. Though the products being produced may have changed, Central Massachusetts remains at the forefront of a new era of advanced manufacturing.
At this time, nearly 56 percent of all manufacturing positions in Massachusetts are considered “advanced.” The old stereotype of the industry as being dark, dirty and declining is quickly being replaced with a brighter, 21st Century vision of advantageous and accelerating growth.
To keep this positive, forward momentum going, and to promote the new manufacturing brand, the New England Council and Deloitte Consulting recently released “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution.” The report evaluates the region’s strengths and advantages. It also identifies opportunities for investment and collaboration which can be used as a road map for growth and developing a competitive edge.
Collaboration seems to be an important part of the detailed report, which includes six recommendations for manufacturers, lawmakers, educators and others to help reinforce regional cooperation.
In a small regional community like New England, it becomes even more imperative for stakeholders in the area to work together to create viable educational pathways which will ensure lifelong learning and the ability to transfer credits for acquired knowledge. The council also advises that we should focus on improving the smoggy manufacturing image to attract new workers. The manufacturing industry of today is safe, innovative, and pays well, especially in advanced manufacturing positions.
The effort will require aligning both state and federal regulations with industry needs. State policy makers have been urged to include advanced manufacturing as a part of state economic development job creation plans.
Massachusetts is already leading the way in the effort, with Gov. Charlie Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet, which is made up of the secretaries of labor and workforce development, education development, as well as housing and economic development. The cabinet was created to address the current skills gap. Officials in neighboring states now have an opportunity to follow the governor’s example.
State officials are encouraged to begin a regular dialogue with their peers in the neighboring five states to compare ideas and exchange best practices. They should also work together to secure federal funding for the establishment of a New England advanced manufacturing hub under the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation initiative (NNMI). Acting as a highly effective “teaching factory,” the NNMI would be ideal for addressing the industry’s challenges and training the skilled workforce the New England needs.
Central Massachusetts is in a position to continue its long history of excellence in manufacturing. It will take a collaborative effort to continue to advance the industry.