Lightweighting-related employment reached new heights in 2018

Emily DeRocco knows continuing to strengthen the country’s manufacturing base means both economic security through job creation and national security.

And statistics show that kind of growth – particularly in lightweighting-related occupations – has been happening in record numbers.

Advanced manufacturing employment reached new heights in 2018, with more than 730,000 Michigan workers employed in lightweighting-related occupations. That’s the highest level since 2005 and the ninth straight year of growth, according to a new report from Detroit-based LIFT (Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow), a national advanced manufacturing innovation institute.

“Nine straight years of growth is fantastic,” said DeRocco, LIFT’s education and workforce vice president. “I think we are seeing that not only because we are rebounding from the Great Recession, but also, as a country, we are realizing the importance of manufacturing products here in the United States.”

Along with rising employment levels in 2018, the LIFT report showed employer demand for workers in lightweighting-related occupations grew by some 19 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017 through the fourth quarter of 2018, with more than 66,500 jobs posted in the year’s final quarter.

The report, highlighting employment trends, top jobs and required skills in advanced manufacturing for 2018, was completed with research and analysis from the Workforce Intelligence Network of Southeast Michigan (WIN) and covers Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, a region that’s home to more than 50 percent of the metalworking jobs in the country.

“It is tremendously positive to see the trend in employment growth in Michigan for the ninth consecutive year,” DeRocco said. “As demand for advanced manufacturing jobs continues to climb, it remains incumbent upon industry and educators to partner together to ensure the pipeline of people with the talent, skills and abilities to work in advanced manufacturing is robust to support the needs of the manufacturing base going forward.”

While the LIFT report focused on lightweighting-related jobs, DeRocco pointed out there’s been growth “in a wide range of manufacturing occupations.” The potential problem? The national prediction is of a need to fill more than 3.5 million jobs over the next several years and two million going unfilled because there aren’t the skilled workers to fill them, she said.

“The issue now is a skills gap facing our manufacturers,” DeRocco said. “Most significantly, there is a tremendous need for highly skilled technicians who can work in a variety of capacities on a wide range of machines on the manufacturing floor. Our focus at LIFT is to ensure the pipeline of talent ready for these positions is filled.”

DeRocco is obviously delighted with the growth, but knows there’s more to do.

“The good news from our reports is that the industrial manufacturing base is on more solid ground,” she said. “However, there is still much work to be done to narrow the skills gap to make sure industry has the people with the right knowledge, skills and abilities to work with the new technologies – like those being developed at LIFT – in the future.

“So while the manufacturing industry is healthier than it has been in some time,” she added, “we have to produce the educated and skilled workforce to make sure manufacturing in America continues to grow for decades to come.”

The full Michigan report can be viewed at: