CARY – Manufacturing jobs may be a primary driver of North Carolina’s future economy, including jobs in clean energy.

That’s according to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who spoke Wednesday morning at an event held in person at SAS headquarters in Cary.

“If you haven’t been on the floor of advanced manufacturing in the last decade or so, you have got to go,” the governor said in opening remarks at the kickoff event of MFG Day 2022. “A lot of people have this vision of what manufacturing is all about, that it’s dark and dull and boring and repetitive. That’s not the way it is any more.”

Cooper highlighted the state’s recent economic development wins, including VinFast, Boom Supersonic, Forza X1, and Toyota’s two recent investments in the state, noting that these companies are coming to North Carolina with the expectation that the state’s workforce will have the skills necessary to fill the expected jobs in their manufacturing operations.

“When I talk to CEOs,” said Cooper, “the top three issues are workforce, workforce and workforce. I think we have the most talented, skilled, diverse workforce in the country.”

SAS CEO Jim Goodnight also delivered remarks at the kickoff event, and said that the company was committed to training and reskilling manufacturing workers.  Earlier this year, North Carolina A&T received a federal grant of $23.7 million to bolster the state’s clean energy workforce.

“We’ll continue to position our state as a leader in clean energy and other growing advanced manufacturing industries while we train the skilled workforce they all need,” Cooper said.

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The need is large

There’s currently one job seeker for every two jobs that are open, Jay Timmons, the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said at the kickoff event of MFG Day 2022 on Wednesday morning.

“That’s never happened,” he added.

In the manufacturing sector, there are currently 800,000 open jobs, Timmons said.  And, even as companies hire and onboard new workers, there’s been about 800,000 open jobs in the sector for months.

Dan Abramson, SAS executive director of marketing, said, “While jobs are changing, they’re not being replaced by robots or the metaverse. What we’re seeing is these new careers come to light.

“We’re looking at data scientists. We’re looking at citizen data scientists. You’re looking at process engineers. You’re looking at robotics technicians.”

All of those jobs require people like Apex Friendship High School junior Marwan Rahal, who hopes to get into mechanical engineering.

“This is actually some really, really cool stuff,” he said.

After a factory tour, Rahal said, “It’s not dirty at all like some people would think. It’s very clean, very in order, and everyone looks like they’re having some fun.”

Timmons cited a recent study conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute (a partner of the National Association of Manufacturers) that found that the manufacturing skills gap could leave 2.1 million sector jobs unfilled by 2030.

And that’s in an economy with 4 million more manufacturing jobs at that time, said Timmons, noting that failing to fill these jobs “is going to hurt the economy to the tune of $1 trillion in 2030 alone.”

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