By CHELSEA MASON-PLACEK
(Oct. 1, 2021) — It’s national Manufacturing Day today, when manufacturers, educators and trade groups leverage the day — and the month of October — to showcase factory floors and promote careers in manufacturing to the next generation of manufacturing workers.
Also this week, the newly formed Manufacturing Labor Roundtable of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO had its kickoff meeting. It includes union leaders from Washington’s diverse manufacturing sectors across the state, coming together to advance policies and programs that protect and grow Washington’s manufacturing base and promote high-road job creation.
Organized labor especially appreciates the generations of good union jobs supported by the manufacturing industry. In Washington, they include jobs in aerospace, aluminum and steel, refining, food processing, pulp and paper, wood products, and many others. These jobs have a ripple effect in bolstering local economies. Conversely, families and whole communities suffer when these good manufacturing jobs are lost.
There’s another important value from the manufacturing industry that is too often overlooked. It is an epicenter for innovation and advanced technology. According to a 2021 Congressional Research Service report, more than 62 percent of private research and development in the United States in 2019 happened in manufacturing.
Manufacturing innovation is not exclusive to emerging industries, like space and autonomous vehicles that get all the hype. Innovation is built into the culture of decades-old manufacturing. It allows for ongoing product development in critical materials like aluminum, which is vital for solar panels and reducing transportation emissions, and in highly-specialized products like aircraft, which constantly change to meet the global demands of the future.
Manufacturing innovation also allows for continuous process improvements in refineries, factories and mills to make them more efficient, safer, less energy intense, and greener.
Today’s jobs in manufacturing are high-skill and high-tech, from the design “table” to the shop floor. And the innovation developed in Washington manufacturing helps drive the state’s technological edge across sectors.
The importance of preserving our state’s manufacturing base and growing its footprint, in current and emerging industries, can’t be overstated. It’s the means by which we support sustainable domestic supply chains, increase Washington exports and ensure Washington is a lead manufacturer of critical products in the clean energy economy. It secures advancements in technology in our state and ensures we keep and grow good jobs in our local communities.
For more information, see the Manufacturing Day events happening across Washington today and through the month of October.
Chelsea Mason-Placek is Workforce Development Director for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.