There is something special about buying a product that is “Made in America.” It is a patriotic feeling knowing that when you buy that product, you are supporting jobs in our communities and helping families put food on the table.
Our country would not be as great as it is without the manufacturing industry. Manufacturers drive our economy. The United States is the world’s second largest manufacturer and the industry has experienced tremendous growth, allowing us to compete on a global stage. In Oklahoma alone, the total output from manufacturing totaled almost $17 billion and the industry as a whole added $2.38 trillion to our country’s economy in 2017. In fact, the U.S. manufacturing industry would be the eighth largest economy in the world.
American manufacturing is not only supporting a global economy, it’s also providing steady, good-paying jobs right here at home. Manufacturers employ nearly 13 million people in the United States, including 137,000 people in Oklahoma. That’s over 8 percent of the workforce in our state. Manufacturing job growth has roared back to life under President Trump, with more than 500,000 new manufacturing jobs created since the election. Job openings in the industry are also at an all-time high of 509,000 open jobs.
When I visit manufacturers in my district like Berry Global in McAlester or Optronics in Muskogee, I hear the same thing time and time again — it’s hard to find workers with the right skill set to take these newly created jobs. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, 68% of companies say that finding skilled workers is the biggest challenge.
Not being able to fill open jobs poses a big threat to the continued success of the manufacturing industry and our economy. Last year, the president signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act into law. This will help ensure every American has access to an education that helps them learn the skills that will jumpstart their careers.
We must do everything we can to improve the opportunities for Americans in the workforce and help every American reach their full potential. American manufacturing is better than ever and investing in career and technical education will continue that success.