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Do you want your kid to get a manufacturing job?

In a study released in June by Deloitte LLP and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, the study found that, not surprisingly, the United States is losing ground relative to nations in Asia from a competitive manufacturing standpoint.

, the study found that, not surprisingly, the United States is losing ground relative to nations in Asia from a competitive manufacturing standpoint. In an interview with Craig Giffi, the report's research-team leader and coauthor and who serves as vice chairman and national industry leader for consumer and industrial products at Deloitte LLP, he notes that "a lot of studies look at [competitiveness] but we try to do a forward look-where will we be five years from now?"

Giffi's take is that the U.S. will continue to lose its edge and this is a wake-up call that things need attention. Asia is emerging as the top location-China, India, Korea. Six of the top 12 manufacturing countries will be in Asia. "This is further evidence of a fundamental shift," notes Giffi. "Combine that with the fact that other industrialized nations are seeing significant degradation in manufacturing, it's rather sobering.

"Talent-driven innovation is the secret for industrialized economies like the U.S.," says Giffi. "The U.S. has the talent-driven component of this, but can we keep our hold on that?"

Another Deloitte study in collaboration with the Manufacturing Institute on America on the perception of manufacturing shows that the sector has a long way to go to polish its image. "Everyone thinks manufacturing is important, but no one wants to do it," says Giffi. "They have a PR problem. People think manufacturing jobs are dangerous and don't pay as well. Americans really want manufacturing to be in this country-but interestingly, when asked, 'Would you encourage your children to go into manufacturing?' a very low percentage answered 'Yes.'"

One thing that became clear in the study-that manufacturing competitiveness is solely in the hands of the manufacturer-is not true. "It was clear that a company's competiveness is also very dependent on government policy," explains Giffi. "In the 21st century, battle lines are being drawn around economic policy, and a critical point is the industrial capabilities of the nation. It's not about an open battle field-it's about industrial battles and it's about jobs and prosperity."

From a policy standpoint, Giffi says Deloitte knows that there's something else going on that attracts industrial companies to site plants in specific areas. "I don't think we believe that we'll wake up and try to be less competitive," says Giffi. "If companies are trying to be more competitive and yet are becoming less competitive, then we look at policies that inhibit our competitiveness. Why aren't more policies an advantage to manufacturing? There are less of [these policies favorable to manufacturing] here compared to Western Europe."

A lot of small to medium-sized manufacturers tend to be captive to domestic policy. "The nations that have policies that improve competitiveness-and for industrial countries, this is a combination of skilled labor, costs, trade, policies, R&D, innovation, etc.-it all comes together with infrastructure investment to determine whether your company can be successful in that marketplace," Giffi concludes. "If there's not enough help from government policies, you won't be successful."-[email protected]

TAGS: Business
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