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    Posted January 27, 2014 by
    san francisco, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Tech talk

    Manufacturing Can Come Home Again


    We hear a lot about infrastrusture. How to plan for it, build it, and what various populations need to become modern centers of commerce. Usually that entails discussions of wide highways, modern airports, and bullet trains. Yet there’s another kind of infrastructure that every serious modern economy should take into consideration. I’m talking about the education and training kind.

    To boost growth in the manufacturing industry, I believe manufacturers need to introduce new vigor into the sector by re-skilling their populations, re-defining product innovations, and designing for the future. Some companies are already doing this kind of educational and skills infrastructure planning with great success.

    Why I say this is because to be an economic powerhouse of the next century, companies need to do more than simply build sophisticated plants and research facilities. They need to fill those buildings and campuses with the right people. The good news is that developed economies are starting to invest more in rejuvenating the skills of their manufacturing workforces. By doing so, they strengthen my impression that these economies have finally found a way to best utilize their unemployed manufacturing workers.

    At the World Economic Forum last week in Davos, Switzerland, we did a lot of conversing about the big issues of the day. One of the things we enjoy talking about is how the world is recovering from the global economic crisis five years ago. For example, if we compare the US (which lacks a substantial number of formal apprenticeship programs) with Germany and Denmark (two countries that execute such programs), we discover some interesting facts.

    The youth unemployment rates in Germany and Denmark are 7.5 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Set against the overall Eurozone youth unemployment rate of a 24 percent, these two countries have obviously taken the right steps toward reducing unemployment among younger citizens. An outstanding example of their success is the engineering firm Siemens, which employs 10,000 apprentices. On the other hand, the youth unemployment rate in the United States, where only 0.3 percent of youth participate in apprenticeship programs, is 16.2 percent.

    This explains the enormous training gap and consequently high unemployment rate in the United States. So although greater growth in the manufacturing sector can create more jobs, implementing effective training programs to address the skill requirements of these jobs will be one way to improve the situation.

    Skilled and properly trained young workers are about more than just national pride. With great strides being made in all types of innovation, next-generation manufacturers must actively protect their Intellectual Property and assets in this aggressively competitive industry. Re-skilling new workers to be equipped with new knowledge, degrees, and training means they can work efficiently in super-automated or even virtual factories.

    The responsibility of ensuring the availability of this workforce lies with educators and policymakers. We discuss this fact quite abundantly at Davos, but I hope we can take these issues back to our home countries and companies to continue the inspirational conversations.


    So, let us begin this mission today.

    Sanjay Jalona is Senior Vice President and Global Head of Hi-Tech, Manufacturing and Engineering Services at Infosys.

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