Sramana Mitra: The U.S. has lost millions of manufacturing jobs. How many of those do you think are coming back?
Jason Blessing: That is hard to say, since there is no great data on it. But what you can point to are some of the most well-known manufacturing companies in the world like General Electric or Apple. Their CEOs are out in the press talking about bringing major portions of their manufacturing back to America. The movement starts with some of the thought leaders in the industry. They are doing it for the reasons I just described. Between that and the support in Washington to set up manufacturing hubs across the country, I think we are going to bring more life back into the segment.
SM: That is good for you, but there is still a big question of whether the job situation is going to improve dramatically. I don’t know if you are familiar with the research of Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee out of MIT. They are publishing a lot right now about what robotics is doing to manufacturing, at least from a jobs point of view.
JB: Certainly some of the assembly can be automated. But for every article that talks about robots, there are also articles about the shortage of people who know how to operate those robots that know how to design and build tools.
SM: Is your impression that this shortage is real?
JB: Absolutely. In fact, I was in a plant the other day and I asked the owner, who I was walking around with, about shortages in some of the skilled trades, and I asked if that was true. He said, “Absolutely. We have a formal apprentice and training program because the universities and trade schools are just not putting them out fast enough.”
SM: That is an encouraging situation.
JB: It is. The diversification and balance are what we need for a healthy economy, an economy that is strong and will continue to be strong in the U.S.
SM: It was very nice talking with you, Jason.
JB: It was great to talk with you, too.