Help wanted in manufacturing

Bay State gears up to fill 100,000 projected job openings

By Marie Szaniszlo | The Boston Herald | November 27, 2012

State officials and industry leaders today will hold the first meeting of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative to draw attention to a sector whose work force is aging and projected to have 100,000 job openings over the next decade.

While some analysts have predicted the decline of industry as a major economic player, manufacturing is Massachusetts’ fifth-largest private sector, accounting for some 7,500 companies and 250,000 jobs, said Northeastern University Professor Barry Bluestone, who serves on the collaborative’s board.

“A lot of people don’t know that Massachusetts manufactures things,” said Mitch Tyson, the collaborative’s industry co-chairman and former CEO of PRI Automation. “The reality is so much of high-tech products in the state are made here. All manufacturing jobs have not moved to China.”

But while productivity in the sector has increased by about 8.7 percent annually since 2007 in Massachusetts, the manufacturing work force is aging and expected to have 100,000 job openings by 2022, said Bluestone, who co-authored a report on the industry this year.

Of 700 Bay State manufacturing companies surveyed for that report, 70 percent said they expect to increase employment over the next five years alone, Bluestone said.

The collaborative, which met informally for more than two years before it was formally established in August as part of the jobs bill Gov. Deval Patrick signed, has been working with vocational school and community college leaders to better align their curriculum with companies’ needs and to tout manufacturing careers through promotional campaigns like “AMP it up!”

“We need to find ways to attract employees and train them,” Bluestone said.

Manufacturing companies in Massachusetts pay an average of $27,000 per year for unskilled, entry-level workers and $52,000 per year for skilled production workers, Bluestone said.

“There’s lots of room for people to have secure, good-paying jobs in this industry,” said Eric Nakajima, assistant secretary for innovation policy.

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