GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 2, 2012

Attrition seen as threat to manufacturing

BOSTON — Manufacturing in Massachusetts faces a threat to its survival as older manufacturing workers retire without younger workers in line to replace them, according to a new study.

During the next decade, approximately 100,000 manufacturing jobs will open up as older workers retire. Manufacturing firms will find it tough to replace them because younger workers are not attracted to the sector, according to Barry Bluestone, director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University.

The outlook for manufacturing was discussed during the first meeting of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative – a group of executives, industry experts and state economic development officials organized to strengthen the sector.

The 100,000 figure – or 10,000 jobs a year – is based on flat growth in manufacturing, Bluestone said. The number of jobs could be higher. The report comes on the heels of other figures reported by the Times that show Gloucester has already been shedding higher-paying manufacturing jobs, while gaining in the retail and service sectors.

The numbers from the department and the North Shore Workforce Investment Board (WIB) show that, in 2007, an average 2,800 people worked in Gloucester manufacturing companies. But in 2011, according to year-long tracking data, that average had fallen to 2,350 —meaning that, over five years, Gloucester lost 420 manufacturing jobs, a 15 percent decrease.

Over the past year, manufacturers like Gloucester Engineering, Bomco Industries and the Varian Division of Applied Materials have all added jobs in Gloucester — but over the last five years, the number of retail jobs have grown in the city by almost 30 percent — or 365 jobs — according to the WIB, while accommodations and food service jobs rose by 20 percent over the last five years, adding 214 jobs.

Part of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative’s mission will be to reverse the trend by encouraging more young people to look at manufacturing jobs.

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