Five Takeaways From The US Center for Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Roundtable

Dennis Burck
January 10, 2023
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Photo by Automation Alley

Photo by Automation Alley


The event held on Dec. 15 saw a diverse group of industry professionals and academics discuss upskilling and reskilling the manufacturing workforce. Findings will inform US Center For Advanced Manufacturing goals throughout 2023.

The U.S. manufacturing workforce of 13 million exists in a transformative time in global industry. Digital technologies are revolutionizing the advanced manufacturing work process. Those who adopt the necessary learning journey for their employees will see incredible gains in efficiency, production and complexity. The industry’s greatest asset, its human element, will need to evolve alongside its tech-centric counterparts.  

On Dec. 15, The US Center for Advanced Manufacturing hosted a roundtable discussion on upskilling and reskilling the manufacturing workforce. The event was attended by over 40 industry professionals representing major OEMs and their supply chains across industries and geography.

Utilizing breakout sessions and key presentations, the findings of this event will shape US Centre workforce project goals moving into 2023.  

Here are five key takeaways:  

1. The Human Centric Supply Chain

MSU Kesseler Family Faculty Fellow in Supply Chain Management Sriram Narayanan opened up the event with a presentation on “Abilities First, Steps to Create The Human Centric Supply Chain.” According to Narayanan, the concept of a human-centric supply chain is not new: Henry Ford once tallied up factory positions based on ability, finding that 4,034 of 7,882 jobs did not require full physical capacity to perform. Moving to the 21st century, Narayanan argued that teaching intangible abilities like empathy toward fellow workers and the perception of business-societal relationships will play major roles in the manufacturing workforce and beyond.    

2. A Transformative Journey

Diving into the breakout sessions, attendees agreed successful upskilling and reskilling programs require incorporating the voice of the workforce, providing space for them to express and experiment creatively to drive innovation. Also, since the learning process will be a lifelong commitment, workers should have access to environments conducive to production, education and comfort.  

3. Driving Holistic Change

Bolstering the workforce requires an internal and external narrative change surrounding education and employment. Fresh college graduates are not the sole employee resource for manufacturers to recruit. Community-led upskilling groups like Apple Developer Academy are creating capable workers of all ages and backgrounds. Fostering these non-traditional education resources will be key in building a tech-savvy workforce. Changing this narrative and supporting non-traditional education resources will require cross-company collaboration.  

4. Partnerships

Private-public partnerships are needed to upskill the workforce. A greater emphasis on manufacturing as a viable career for K-12 children is vital to meet future demand. Partnerships focusing on apprenticeship and other programming will also play a role. The academic, governmental and business realm will all need to work in concert for these efforts to stick.  

5. Inclusion Efforts

To close the event, Flex Vice President of Quality and Operational Excellence Eduardo Toledo gave a presentation on inclusion efforts of people with “DiversAbilities.” Flex achieves inclusion efforts through the use of an Employee Resource Group focusing on workforce culture and workforce training. A Flex site in Milan demonstrates this effort with internships and job opportunities focused on people on the autism-spectrum, integration of diversity into hiring strategy and neurodiversity trainings, workshops, labs and webinars for all site employees.

For more information on the US Center for Advanced Manufacturing events and initiatives, see here.  

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Dennis Burck
Dennis Burck

As Automation Alley’s Digital Content Editor, Dennis Burck manages Automation Alley's Industry 4.0 knowledge center, building relationships and collaborating with various internal and external stakeholders, including Automation Alley members and partners, to develop and curate engaging content around advanced manufacturing and digital transformation. Dennis provides in-depth coverage, data-driven reporting and on-the-ground feature stories on the Industry 4.0 transformation. Dennis worked previously as a business journalist for The Construction Association of Michigan and as a reporter for The National Endowment for the Humanities.

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