JOHN F. FLOYD: Time is ripe for companies to bring jobs back to US
As I move about, I see “help wanted” signs everywhere. Large companies, small companies and medium-sized companies are trying to fill openings.
My son, who is a plant manager, says he has 120 job openings. His company pays good wages and benefits, but can’t fill necessary positions. Manufacturing in the United States is definitely on the rise and the question becomes, “Does the U.S. have enough citizens interested in manufacturing to fill the requirements of a robust manufacturing model?”
Alexa St. John, writer for Automotive News, states in the Aug. 10 edition, “According to the Reshoring Initiative, nearly 97,000 jobs across 202 companies were ‘re-shored’ to the U.S. from at least 10 countries since 2010. At the same time, foreign direct investment in the U.S. from 12 countries has created 180,926 jobs across 670 companies, according to the initiative.” That is a total of 277,926 jobs brought about by returning manufacturing to the U.S. or creating new jobs through foreign investment. Impressive numbers!
Conversely, United Airlines announced a reduction of some 16,000 employees and American Airlines announced reductions of more than 19,000 workers. The airlines had warned their employees that more than 75,000 job losses could occur under the present economic conditions with the summer travel season winding down and government funding running out. Most all airlines have cut their array of flights by 50%, with some exceeding that number. Airlines have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with the American public very conscious of close proximity seating on aircraft.
Ford Motor Company is reducing its salary workforce by 1,400, mostly through salaried worker buyouts. Most employee reductions will be through those planning to separate from the company. Ford has about 30,000 salaried workers in the U.S. In addition, Ford is recovering from a two-year $11 billion re-structuring plan initiated by former CEO Jim Hackett. Just as Ford and other companies are making major reductions in their labor force, Amazon just announced hiring 100,000 employees, with Walmart not far behind.
Airline jobs and manufacturing positions are very far removed from one another in salary and working conditions. Both have particular working stresses, but airlines “working with the public” is far more stressful than any manufacturing requirement. Not that airline employees would transition to manufacturing, but this is just an example of the dilemma facing the working population in regards to job openings.
According to Harry Moser, president of the Re-shoring Initiative, “As Chinese labor rates have risen in recent years, U.S. factories have become more competitive. But the biggest challenge for companies wishing to re-shore is attracting enough labor.” He added, “We have to get much higher percentages of students into apprenticeship programs so that they have the actual skills that are needed on the job, and that’s been hard.”
A man or woman does not necessarily need a college education to work in an environment that requires technical skills. Some individuals are just born with an understanding of math and technical know-how. My dad was one of those people. He was not college educated, but had mathematical skills well beyond any formal training, as did my wife’s father, H.D. Sturkie.
The time is ripe and the opportunity is before American companies to bring back not only manufacturing jobs, but all jobs that have been outsourced to various countries. One hundred eighty-one chief executive officers of the Business Roundtable overturned a 22-year old policy statement that defined a corporation’s primary responsibility to its shareholders as “maximize shareholder value.” They could have added, “at any cost” and it would have appropriately described the business focus of today. Most CEOs were maximizing shareholder value by running to low-wage countries to reduce costs.
But the CEOs have come to realize that maximizing shareholder value may be detrimental to the constituency that supports their existence. The CEOs issued a directive declaring that companies should not only serve their shareholders, but also deliver value to their customers, invest in their employees, deal fairly with suppliers and support communities in which they operate. Hallelujah and hallelujah, because this is something I have advocated for years along with profit sharing for employees.
Companies and businesses of all kinds are postured for the greatest revolution in job creation ever experienced by any country anywhere. Competition for employees will be fierce, but fruitful for employees.
John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing […]
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