Resuming Manufacturing Growth

To everyone interested in an agenda for reversing the loss of manufacturing jobs in this country and creating an environment for growth I strongly recommend a book recently written by Andrew Liveris, the chairman of Dow Chemical called Make it in America. A portion of the book deals with issues such as lowering corporate tax rates and making government regulations fairer and less complicated. He calls for a clear and compelling national clean energy policy which, in itself, would create a huge number of jobs. He then argues that if we had closed what he calls the”educational achievement gap” between the U.S. and those in better-performing nations in 2008, our GDP would have been $ 1.3 trillion to $ 2.3 trillion higher that year. He is particularly concerned that there is not enough focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM acronym), that this country will need 400,000 new graduates in STEM fields by 2015, but that this will not happen, so that companies will need to search for some or much of this talent in other countries. Liveris cites a study by Georgetown University that concluded that 63 percent of jobs in the next four years will require more than a high school degree.

I have talked to executives at Dow who say that their plans to build new manufacturing facilities in the U.S., for example to make solar roof panels for housing and lithium batteries for cars are dependent on finding enough qualified workers and engineers. The company is concerned about the shortage of such people for high tech jobs. Dow has joined with the American Chemical Society to fund next summer’s International Chemical Olympiad, which will be held on July 21-30, 2012 at the University of Maryland. More than 70 nations will send four high school students to compete in testing knowledge in chemistry theory and practice.

So, Dow is doing something to highlight the need for more scientists and engineers in this country to support a new initiative for domestic manufacturing. He believes that with government support in creating a climate for growth and a spirit of cooperation between business and government that used to exist, for example, when President Kennedy challenged the nation to go to the moon in 10 years. That program led to a huge amount of innovation in areas such as satellite navigation, water purification and medical imaging. A long term clean energy program, Liveris believes, could have the same benefits. More generally, it is a fact that manufacturing is a key driver of R&D and innovation.

This blog is largely about the opportunities available to chemical engineers in the chemical, energy and other manufacturing industries. They will be challenged to provide much of the innovation America needs to be competitive in the new world environment.

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