In 2014, some U.S. industries saw growth and resurgence, others languished. With that, here are a few resolutions for American manufacturing in 2015.
1. More Diversity in STEM and Manufacturing
Even as women make up nearly 50 percent of the American work force, their numbers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and manufacturing are significantly less. In recent years, STEM has come under attack for what many see as a bias against females. While contesting this claim, it has been difficult for the fields to validate their stance when reports suggest heavy discrimination toward women in math fields -- as well as cringe-worthy moments like Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella's thoughts on women approaching pay raises in the tech field.
Findings from 2013 show that women make up less than 30 percent of almost every STEM workforce, with chemists and material scientists (44.2 percent) as the only noted outlier. Ellen McCarthy, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's head of daily business operations, explained the importance of getting women involved. "This is not something that's just nice. Let's go study science ... or data curation because that's where you're going to get a job. It's a national security prerogative. For the NGA and for the broader intelligence community right now, it is imperative that we keep in front of this incredible technology revolution that we're living in right now."
Education and emphasis toward young women is in place in various ways, and there's another push to increase minorities in STEM as well -- a "rich pool of STEM talent."
2. U.S. Manufacturing to Continue to Expand
The 2014 expansion in factory output and manufacturing could continue in 2015. Mixed sentiments over reports from the New York Federal Reserve and a recent decline in motor vehicle production (which was just snapped in November) have some believing that the increase could be momentary. "While the solid outlook for the U.S. economy remains, there are, however, mounting downside risks to growth this quarter," Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Research in New York, said last month.
Despite the up-and-down reports across individual industries, optimism appears to remain high heading into 2015. In November, factory output saw its largest increase in over nine months, with production rising 1.1 percent from the prior month-with attribution going to the strengthening domestic economy.
3. More Youth in Manufacturing
In the coming years, the world faces a labor shortage for major economies with aging workforce, like Germany, Japan and the U.S. That could compound the current skilled labor crisis that sees up to 5 percent of labor positions going unfilled. While the severity of America's skills gap has been debated, most understand that measures to confront the issue must be taken to get youth into manufacturing.
Across the country, states are preparing with business-backed initiatives, community college courses, vocational training and even thematic toys. That training is paying off for high school students like Brett Fledderman, who worked at a metal stamping plant for $9 per hour this summer. "I learn a lot faster with hands-on work, so stuff like this really makes me learn a lot faster than I would in the classroom," he explained.
4. A Continued Rise in Remanufacturing
Referred to by some as the ultimate form of recycling, remanufacturing has seen a resurgence in the past decade. With the growth obvious by 2012, the International Trade Commission identified a lack of a common definition and standards as hurdles for the process. Since then, domestic and international remanufacturing has begun to distinguish itself from similar processes. While still facing large issues, predictions believe that the business benefits outweigh the risks.
This can be seen in increased public attention, as well as American companies breaking sales and production barriers for the first time. Television is dedicating airtime to educate the public while the private sector is seeing new frontiers in fields such as air travel and construction. While the rise looks promising, the practice of 3-D printing is still just taking shape -- with some considering it remanufacturing's future.