Restoring U.S. Manufacturing: Skills and Value Chains

Manufacturing Innovation, Growing the Skilled Technical Workforce, Growing Resilient Value Chains

The COVID-19 pandemic pointedly raises the question of how the United States should reconcile efficiency in industrial production and supply with the need for resiliency and recognition of growing dependence on competitors and strategic adversaries for critical technologies and essential products for health and equipment.  Resilience has not been a major factor in organizing the manufacturing economy in recent decades as U.S. firms, driven by considerations of market efficiency, made massive investments in distributed production, notably in China. 

Restructuring supply chains from the ideal of “just in time” to “just in case” calls for greater investment in manufacturing innovation, and in re-shoring some of the nation’s high-tech manufacturing capabilities.  It also calls for renewing the ecosystems that sustain domestic manufacturing.

For this new challenge to be met, firms will require workers with greater proficiency in literacy and numeracy, as well as technical and problem-solving skills.  Renewing American innovation in a more challenging global economy must begin with a strategy for investing in American students and workers to contribute and benefit from the 21st century innovation economy. Successful examples exist and their lessons need to be drawn and applied at scale.