Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Automation is certainly a buzzword these days, but workforce training deserves equal attention.

A recent segment on PBS Newshour explores the implications of automation for workers, particularly the predominately Hispanic population of the Southern California region an hour east of Los Angeles, known as the Inland Empire, where manufacturing and distribution centers dot the landscape.  

In this area, fears that automation will supplant jobs loom large.

Indeed, the prospect of manufacturing job loss should be seen as a threat to the livelihood of not only individual workers, but entire regions, particularly those with communities of color. When family-sustaining manufacturing jobs leave, it is these communities that are often disproportionately impacted by the aftermath though suffering is shared by all workers – all the more reason to fight for infrastructure investment and worker-friendly trade policies.

But there’s more that can be done to help ensure that America’s next generation of workers is ready for the factory of the future.

As we anticipate the integration of robotics into the workplace, we must also support programs that equip workers with advanced manufacturing capabilities. Where these programs are not in place, workers risk missing vital opportunities to build the core skills needed for the factory jobs of the future.

Paul Granillo, president and chief executive officer of Inland Empire Economic Partnership, highlights this concern in an interview for PBS Newshour:

“I think automation is wonderful, and I’m a user of automation. But if it’s only going to be that some regions are going to win and others are going to lose, I do believe that then it does become a moral issue.”

However, partnerships between colleges and companies are creating the programs needed to forestall this.

Featured in the PBS Newshour segment, California Steel Industries and local community colleges have collaborated to develop the Industrial Technical Learning Center, or InTech, in Fontana, Calif.

InTech’s instruction in critical advanced manufacturing fields promises to offer job security as automation integration continues. One InTech student, Erick Martinez comments:

“If I can’t use my manual skills because a robot or an algorithm is going to take my job, there is that uncertainty of, what am I going to do? But then you get exposed to, ‘Hey, we can train you to troubleshoot a lot of these changes that are happening, a lot of things that are replacing your job. Then you can be one step ahead of that.”  

As more advanced manufacturing training programs like that of InTech grow, so too do opportunities to build a better future for all.

After all, there’s no need to fear the robots!