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Education & Workforce Development

Manufacturing in Massachusetts

Barry Bluestone, the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, and his colleagues generated a study supported by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, MassMEP, Mass Alliance for Economic Development, and The Boston Foundation. "The Mass Staying Power Report" set out to determine the future of manufacturing in Massachusetts.  As Congressman McGovern mentioned, Massachusetts was a leader in the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries and is now leading a comeback. STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — are crucial, but even more so is being able to answer the question, "What do we produce?"

Between 2000 and 2006, Massachusetts lost nearly 30,000 jobs per year and it looked as though manufacturing was dead.  In fact, if things remained as they had been, the last manufacturing job would disappear in the Commonwealth by April 2025.

"The truth," says Bluestone, "is that Manufacturing is the 4th largest employer in Massachusetts. There are companies who are producing here successfully both in low tech and high tech – from baseball bats to medical devices. Manufacturing is a larger employer in the Commonwealth now than in 1997."

There has also been amazing growth in productivity, from $133,000 per employee in 2006 to $170,000 per employee today. Productivity in manufacturing has grown four times as fast as other sectors. In general, manufacturing employees with a high school diploma earn an average wage of $65,000 annually. It is the 4th largest employer in the state and has the second highest payroll.

Obviously then, manufacturing provides satisfying employment opportunities in our state and we need to do more to educate about this. Along with a lack of awareness, another serious problem is that the current workforce is aging – nearly 50% are 45 years and older. A huge number of retirements will happen all at once and where will we find people to fill these jobs? The answer is STEM education!

There will be 100,000 job openings in Massachusetts manufacturing in the next 10 years. Unlike other sectors, manufacturing serves the whole Commonwealth with facilities all over the state.

There have been 2,800 jobs lost in Massachusetts since January 2008, which is less than 1% of the total jobs. This does not take into consideration that the job loss is 3.3% nationally and that we are in a recession. Our state’s manufacturers are diverse: aerospace, concrete, architectural and structural, food, medical supplies, etc. Is the forecast too rosy or maybe not rosy enough? At the moment, the value of the dollar is helping manufacturers; production will increase and we will need more workers for extra output.

"In conclusion," stated Bluestone, "the report found that manufacturing faces a great future but it gets no respect. We always hear about biotech or nanotech, but nobody talks up manufacturing.

Our Governor, politicians, educators, and parents need to respect manufacturing and encourage young people to get involved. Manufacturing in Massachusetts is alive and well, it just needs some TLC. We have incredible diversity, new jobs for many workers, enormous economic vitality, and staying power. We all need to tell this story!

A copy of the full report is available at


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