PROVIDENCE – A new report on advanced manufacturing says that the industry is far from declining in New England, but is suffering from a shortage of qualified labor and is affected by the region’s comparatively high cost of doing business.
The New England Council and Deloitte report, “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution,” said total advanced manufacturing jobs in Rhode Island numbered 19,146, or 46 percent, out of 41,579 total manufacturing jobs in the Ocean State, citing federal Bureau of Economic Analysis data from 2012. That’s the second lowest number of manufacturing jobs and advanced manufacturing jobs among the New England states. Only Vermont had a lower number.
In New England, 376,517 of jobs are in advanced manufacturing, or 58.8 percent, out of 640,640 total manufacturing jobs. That’s out of a total of 9 million jobs in New England.
Advanced manufacturing focuses on information, and uses cutting-edge materials and emerging capabilities enabled by physical and biological sciences that involve new ways to manufacture products.
Industries include optics and measurement, aerospace and defense, medical devices and biotechnology, semiconductors and complex electronics, and precision machining, the report said.
For example, the GDP in New England is $874.2 billion, and Massachusetts’ GDP is the largest at $431.9 billion, while Vermont is the lowest at $28.4 billion. Rhode Island’s figure is $51.6 billion. Advanced manufacturing comprises $62.6 billion of GDP for New England, and $2.2 billion for Rhode Island.
Companies such as Electric Boat, which has operations at Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, and Biomedical Structures in Warwick, were some of the advanced manufacturers highlighted in the report.
The study was structured to raise the profile of advanced manufacturing in New England.
One of the key findings was that despite the difficulties of the recession, advanced manufacturing has proven to be a resilient sector of the economy. But, the dearth of skilled labor remains an issue, as well as the current aging workforce.
The report suggests ways to accelerate advanced manufacturing growth, which include forming partnerships with high schools, increasing industry partnerships and apprenticeships, re-branding the industry and securing funding to make New England an advanced manufacturing center.
It also states that New England has a rich history in manufacturing, from its beginnings as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The report cites the Blackstone Valley Corridor as having an “acceptable cost structure” to support advanced manufacturing making complex products.
“The heyday of the shipbuilding yards and textile mills may have waned, but the highly-skilled, advanced manufacturing networks that evolved from it are poised to have a dramatic impact on the economy in New England,” the report stated.