Manufacturing remains a major job engine in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania Manufacturing Week is an annual showcase of the state’s diverse manufacturing industry, designed to draw attention to career opportunities and to the sector’s still-significant impact on the economy. This year’s event runs from September 30 to October 6, in conjunction with National Manufacturing Day on October 6.

We caught up with Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis M. Davin to learn more.

Keystone Edge: What is the current state of manufacturing in Pennsylvania?

Dennis M. Davin: Pennsylvania continues to be a U.S. leader in manufacturing — from food and forestry products to equipment and medical devices to plastics and chemicals. Our manufacturing industry has an $84 billion impact on our economy.

We really do offer a competitive edge for manufacturers.DCED Secretary Dennis M. Davin

Judging by our economic output, Pennsylvania has the eighth largest manufacturing industry in the country. Today, our manufacturing industry includes more than 14,430 establishments throughout Pennsylvania and employs over 558,000 individuals who earn an average annual wage of $59,788, considerably higher than the average annual wage of workers in the United States. Many people are not aware that manufacturing offers that level of compensation.

What are the new trends and developments in manufacturing?

It comes down to technology. Manufacturing in Pennsylvania is directly linked to innovation, and we continue to see companies creating and adopting groundbreaking technologies. Whether it is technology that helps improve efficiency and productivity — like 3D printing, robotics, automation and autonomous tech — or technology that helps connect companies to consumers through new software and digital platforms, we’re seeing all sorts of innovation driving growth in our manufacturing industry.

A Manufacturing Week event at SWF Industrial, October 2016

We have heard time and again that companies located in Pennsylvania find our world-class R&D institutions, technology commercialization programs, technical and industrial resources, and skilled workforce combine to create a unique advantage for businesses. We really do offer a competitive edge for manufacturers.

What’s new this year for PA Manufacturing Week?

This year, DCED is launching a new social media campaign called #IMakeinPA to draw attention to the exciting career opportunities in manufacturing. #IMakeinPA offers a behind-the-scenes look at the experiences of real Pennsylvanians working in manufacturing. The campaign will feature profiles and testimonials from Pennsylvania’s manufacturers and employees from across the state, including how they got into manufacturing, what a typical work day looks like, and why they are proud to take part in Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry. The campaign also encourages all employees of manufacturing firms to use the #IMakeinPA hashtag on social media to share positive insights about manufacturing in Pennsylvania.

As students and their families consider career paths and options for future jobs, we want to remind them that working in manufacturing offers a lot of opportunity for growth and stability.DCED Secretary Dennis M. Davin

Also new this year, we are focusing on the importance of students having access to makerspaces. In recent years the United States has seen the growth of makerspaces — communal spaces often housed at schools, universities and libraries that offer a collaborative environment for individuals of all ages to express their creativity through hands-on DIY projects. Many makerspaces offer access to resources like 3D printers, software, electronics, and craft and hardware supplies to help users collaborate on or implement new ideas or projects. Many of the skills fostered in makerspaces translate to manufacturing careers, and allow students to experience what it’s like to craft and create something of their own. In Pennsylvania, we have makerspaces across the state for students and adults alike. Our website will include a map of the makerspaces in Pennsylvania.

Why is Pennsylvania Manufacturing Week so important?

Pennsylvania is training the next generation of manufacturing workers, focusing on advanced technical and STEM skills. As students and their families consider career paths and options for future jobs, we want to remind them that working in manufacturing offers a lot of opportunity for growth and stability. Many people don’t realize that manufacturing workers have the highest job security in the private sector. On top of that, 72 percent of manufacturing workers receive medical benefits through their job, and 78 percent get retirement contributions from their employer. Those are some great numbers to keep in mind — in addition to the fact that those who work in manufacturing earn almost 15 percent more on average than individuals working in other industries.

A Manufacturing Week event at SWF Industrial, October 2016

[So] Pennsylvania Manufacturing Week is important because it introduces students to diverse careers in manufacturing, and connects our future workforce with local employers and job opportunities. Without Pennsylvania Manufacturing Week, many of our students would never have the chance to speak with manufacturers, see what the inside of plant looks like, or understand what it means work in manufacturing.

Manufacturing in Pennsylvania is directly linked to innovation, and we continue to see companies creating and adopting groundbreaking technologies.DCED Secretary Dennis M. Davin

One of my favorite initiatives is called “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing.” It’s a program that engages students in middle school and high school, allowing them to experience firsthand what it’s like to work in manufacturing. Groups of students visit manufacturing operations and get together to make videos highlighting their experiences. The videos are then judged and recognized through an awards ceremony that attracts hundreds of attendees.

I have had the pleasure of participating in these events over the last couple of years, and I have to say some of their videos really blew me away in the way they gave their peers and parents a positive look at potential careers they may not have ever considered before. I give a lot of credit to the Lehigh Valley’s Dream It Do It Partnership for launching this incredible program that is catching on all over Pennsylvania.

ELISE VIDER is news editor of Keystone Edge.

DCED is a partner in Keystone Edge.   

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Made in PA, Manufacturing, PA Products, Robotics, Science & Tech