New England is poised capitalize on the emerging “advanced manufacturing” sector, which could bring an influx of high-skill jobs, but certain obstacles may prevent the region from seizing the opportunity, according to a report out today.
Connecticut and nearby states have unique advantages working in their favor as the advanced manufacturing sector grows, according to “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution.”
The report was released today by financial firm Deloitte and the New England Council, a nonpartisan economic development advocacy group.
In particular, New England states already have a strong foothold in several advanced manufacturing fields: signal processing, aerospace and defense, medical devices and biotechnology, semiconductors and complex electronics, and precision mechanics, according to the report.
Jobs in those sectors are likely to grow, according to the report, as the manufacturing sector moves away from traditional jobs, such as those performed on factory assembly lines, and more toward technology-focused industries.
Even amid tough economic times, these cutting-edge industries have held their own in Connecticut and nearby states, the report says, and emerging technologies like digital design and 3-D printing could bring even more business to the region.
In Connecticut, most manufacturing jobs — 124,754 of 173,448, or 72 percent — were in advanced manufacturing in 2014, according to the report. There is an especially high prevalence of advanced manufacturing jobs in Middlesex County, where they account for 86 percent of all manufacturing jobs, and in Litchfield County where they account for 71 percent.
Throughout New England, there were 640,640 total manufacturing jobs in 2014, according to the report, of which 376,517 classified as advanced technology jobs.
The report touts several “progressive programs and initiatives” in Connecticut. Among them are the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), Goodwin College in East Hartford, the Connecticut Community College Apprenticeship Model, and the state-sponsored Manufacturing Innovation Fund.
The fund designates matching grants of up to $50,000 to small and mid-sized manufacturing businesses that they can use to buy equipment, invest in training, or transform their business.
The report spotlights one CCAT initiative in particular — called “Connecticut. Dream It. Do It.” — in which the East Hartford-based nonprofit brings students, families, educators, and manufacturers together to better understand the advanced manufacturing sector and the role it could play in the state.
But against a backdrop of great potential, there remain multiple hurdles Connecticut and its New England neighbors must surmount in order to fully capitalize on industry trends, the report warns.
A high cost of business and complex regulatory requirements, compared with other regions, are problematic. Also, many federally funded existing programs to help manufacturers aren’t flexible enough to meet the needs of advanced manufacturers, the report says, and small to mid-sized companies can struggle with recruiting workers and acquiring technology because of their size.
“Our hope is that this new report . . . helps drive a broader discussion among public and private sector stakeholders about how we collaboratively invest in and support advanced manufacturing to both promote sustained economic growth in every corner of New England and strengthen our regional competitive advantage,” New England Council President and CEO James Brett said in a statement.
The report offers several recommendations for the region to avoid pitfalls. New England should, according to the report: create a “fully connected,” comprehensive manufacturing education system for students beginning in high school; increase partnerships and apprenticeships; rebrand the manufacturing industry by calling it the “Maker Revolution;” and increase federal funding coming into the sector.
The report’s authors also recommend that industry leaders and government officials work together to ensure that publicly funded programs accurately align to the industry’s needs.
Collaboration will be key to the six New England states’ success, the report says.
“These recommendations must be implemented in a thoughtful, coordinated manner that minimizes duplication of effort, reflects a regional approach and leverages the leading implementation practices from each state to the benefit of all,” the report says.