Mean­while, New England’s fac­to­ries, once among the world’s most pros­perous, have ended decades of job loss and are now facing a new problem: recruit­ment. In 2012, Barry Blue­stone, dean of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, esti­mated that over the coming decade, man­u­fac­turers in Mass­a­chu­setts alone would need to fill 100,000 jobs as the sector’s aging work­force retired.

But a June survey of man­u­fac­turers in North Cen­tral Mass­a­chu­setts found that recruit­ment, hob­bled by a “lack of interest in man­u­fac­turing careers from youth,” was their number one bar­rier to growth. The finding echoes a 2009 Deloitte study on New Eng­land man­u­fac­turing that iden­ti­fied a wide­spread per­cep­tion that man­u­fac­turing is “dark, dirty, dan­gerous, and declining” as a major obstacle to success.

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