Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Realities…New Opportunities

The future is looking good...for manufacturing, and for employment.

Among the hot topics leading into 2014 is the industry drive for more talented, prepared workers in both the short and long term.

Here’s a different look at the topic. A Modern Metals “Special Report” first looks at the common misconceptions about worker shortages (like the so-called ‘permanent loss of jobs to off-shoring’). Then, they look at the basic, though challenging, steps every manufacturer can take to ensure a stronger, more prepared workforce.

Great reading to kick off the year. Find the complete article here.

Welders: Why There’s STILL a Shortage

Speaking of finding qualified people, surveys continue to show that welders are still one of the most sought-after skills in metal fab. With the reports of new tech school and outreach programs by manufacturers, the problem should be subsiding, right?

One problem just emerging is that, while demand for welders is still high, relative pay has stayed stagnant.

According to a new report this month in The Fabricator, reasons include the experience gap between seasoned welders and novices. Those with years of on-the-job experience are heading toward retirement, taking with them the wealth of knowledge learned in a lifetime. Enter the fresh, less experienced welder and companies are only paying commensurate on experience.

But this, too, is changing…and fast. Forward-thinking manufacturers are using in-house mentoring and training to help new recruits bed the learning curve. And it’s paying off for everyone.

Check out the complete report from The Fabricator here.

Minnesota Reports a Strong Year

We take frequent looks at success stories in Wisconsin, but we have some terrific friends and customers in neighboring states, too.

In Minnesota, for example, the Department of Employment & Economic Development is estimating that state manufacturers will have spent nearly 700 million dollars on expansions, renovations and relocations in 2013. Not bad for an industry that was on hard times 5 years ago. Experts are crediting the growth primarily to the need for manufacturers to stay competitive and replace outdated facilities.

You can read more in this piece from the Star Tribune.

From China: Steel Mills to Farmland

It reads like fiction: just ten years ago, China was in the midst of a rapid steel mill expansion while global export demands exceeded capacity.

Fast forward to 2014, and the situation has changed. No, demand hasn't crashed, and steel mill activity is still strong, but today's trends include over-capacity mills shutting down and the land reverting to its previous use: farming.

What does it mean for US steel users?

Read more in this feature story.