Here’s who can fill Chicago’s manufacturing needs

Photo by Crain’s file photo

Teresa Córdova, director of the Great Cities Institute at UIC, co-authored a Crain’s Chicago Business op-ed on the Chicago area’s manufacturing sector, its stabilization in recent years and the potential for future growth by creating pathways for unemployed Black and Latino young people. Cordova and Matt Wilson, an economic development planner at the institute, are two of three authors of The Century Foundation’s related report, “Revitalizing Manufacturing and Expanding Opportunities for Chicago’s Black and Latino Communities.”

Across the Chicago region, manufacturers are feeling better than they have in years. Orders are increasing, employment is growing and there’s an increasing recognition that the quality provided by local precision manufacturers is a better deal than offshoring production. But there’s one big hangup: Companies don’t have the workers they need to complete manufacturing’s renaissance.

A new report we co-authored, to be released this week, finds that nearly 1 in 3 workers in manufacturing in the metro area is over age 55. Although many companies have retained older, skilled workers, many more positions remain unfilled. Over the past year, there were 58,000 open manufacturing jobs, behind only health care, finance and professional services in need. In 2017, manufacturers posted two jobs for every person they hired.

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