Friday marked the fifth organized observance of manufacturing day in the United States, but manufacturing day is becoming every day in Manatee County.
“It appears to me that more manufacturing is moving into the Suncoast area, based on the number of requests that MTC (Manatee Technical College) gets for qualified students coming out of our manufacturing programs,” said Martha Meyers, business and industry services at MTC.
Companies ask about students graduating from MTC’s manufacturing programs, including machining, electronic and robotics, industrial technology and welding.
Between August 2015 and August 2016, manufacturing employment in the Manatee-Sarasota area increased by 2.4 percent, according to CareerSource Suncoast business and economic development director Anthony Gagliano.
Increase in manufacturing employment year-over-year in August
Source: Business and Economic Development Director Anthony Gagliano at CareerSource Suncoast
Manufacturing profits are on the rise but employment in the industry is on the decline, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Florida is one of 11 states with less than 2.9 percent of the working-age population employed in the manufacturing industry.
And though demand is growing for skilled manufacturing employees in Manatee County, the county accounted for only 8,000 of the 277,000 manufacturing employees in Florida in 2012.
In 2007, before the Great Recession, Manatee County had 10,000 people employed in the manufacturing industry.
As technology moves into the manufacturing industry, workers are displaced and positions eliminated. Nick Choat, who worked at a paper mill as an adolescent and was scheduled to be one of Manatee Technical College’s manufacturing day event speakers on Friday, said technology’s place in manufacturing isn’t all bad for jobs and employment. MTC’s event was canceled because of area school closures.
“Typically what happens is when you put technology in a place, and manufacturing is just one place, it displaces workers but also opens up opportunities that didn't exist,” Choat said. “Is it a zero-sum game? It’s hard to say, but there’s a shift in skill requirement when that happens.”
It’s schools like MTC that help bridge the skill gap and bring the right employees to the right employers, he said.