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Training manufacturing’s next gen: high-tech, innovation

The health of manufacturing has been a hot topic, and appropriately so.

The health of manufacturing has been a hot topic, and appropriately so.

Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., reports that manufacturing is the largest business sector in the Valley, with 680 manufacturers employing nearly 33,000 people and generating $5.56 billion in economic output.

Manufacturing is as important to the nation’s prosperity as it is to the Lehigh Valley’s.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, manufacturers contributed $2.17 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2015 – 12.1 percent of the gross national product. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a full 9 percent of our country’s workforce is employed in manufacturing.

Still, there has been much wringing of hands about that because although the number of manufacturing jobs has grown since the recession, employment in the sector has declined and is not what it was in its golden days of the early 1970s.

Those days are gone. Manufacturing is radically different; it is much more sophisticated.

With automation, productivity has risen to record levels. The work is not as dirty or dangerous as it once was.

In many manufacturing facilities, workers wear lab coats and handle responsibilities more analogous to a laboratory environment than what most people think of when they hear the word “manufacturing.”

It is true that it does not take as many employees to produce a product as it used to, but those workers are paid better than their predecessors.

In 2014, the average manufacturing worker in the U.S. earned $79,553 annually, including benefits. Their salary and benefits outpaced employees in other industries by more than $15,000 per year, according to the bureaus of labor statistics and economic analysis.

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