The City of Chicago and the entire nation is experiencing a skills gap in the manufacturing sector, particularly among the economically disadvantaged and communities of color. In Chicago alone, over 200,000 high-wage manufacturing jobs evaporated between the 80’s and 90’s contributing to the destabilization of communities like South Shore, Austin, and North Lawndale. Not long after the jobs left, families split and many of the social conditions that led to increased poverty and crime moved in.
The good news is that industry didn’t die, it simply changed. Innovations in advanced manufacturing requires workers to acquire skills in technology and mathematics. However, the pandemic exposed racial, economic, and geographic redlining in digital literacy — skills imperative for a successful career and mobility in this industry.
If we are able to close this skills gap we can fill the 58,000 vacant jobs in the Chicago region. Jobs that provide an average annual income of over $80,000 when you include benefits. Moreover, every new manufacturing job created adds another 7 supply chain and support jobs to the economy. No other industry comes close to this kind of economic multiplier. Fill those jobs helps companies and can also help rebuild struggling communities in Chicago.
Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly enough training programs in Chicago to prepare people to get these jobs. To change this, manufacturing is need of a paradigm shift.
To address this situation, a Chicago based non-profit is leading a national coalition to advance legislation supporting unprecedented investment in the manufacturing eco-system.
The Manufacturing Renaissance Campaign worked with Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky to introduce HR5124-The Manufacturing Revitalization Corporation Act in August of last year. The bill calls for $20 billion to support the formation of inclusive, diverse local councils to direct funding, investments in education and training programming so young people can join the industry, funding to support the emerging green and alternative energy industry, and supports for local businesses involved in the manufacturing eco-system.
The bill is gaining momentum in Congress and here in Chicago, Ald. Matt Rodriguez (Ward 22) introduced a resolution calling for the Chicago City Council and the City of Chicago to endorse the bill. The resolution passed and was referred to the Workforce and Education committees for discussion.
Advocating for City Council to pass this resolution puts Chicago in the conversation for more manufacturing training and jobs, a stronger, more resilient economy, a cleaner environment, and help to rebuild some of the communities that continue to experience persistent poverty and poverty-related conditions.
The Time Is Now!
Everyone has a role: educators, environmentalists, business people, union and civil rights leaders, and YOU.