The Future of Manufacturing in the Midwest

May 25, 2017

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and former Governor Terry Branstad have marked 2017 as the "Year of Manufacturing." But what is the state of manufacturing in Iowa?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer explores the future of advanced manufacturing and skilled labor in Iowa.  

Nathan Thornton, a second year welding student at Kirkwood Community College, says he has an optimistic outlook for his career path.

"There is a huge deficit of skilled labor to replace a generation of people that are retiring right now... There really hasn't been enough young people to fill that gap, so we have a huge benefit right now," Thornton says.

Bobby Wade is a Kirkwood Community College Instructor in Advanced Manufacturing, and he says there is a misconception about what manufacturing looks like. He says it is no longer a dim, dirty and dangerous place. Wade says, "You'll see our students sit at a laptop to do offline programming."

Wade says this change in manufacturing is not taking jobs away from people.

"For every robot we put into industry, we're not actually taking a job away from somebody," he says. "We want to train that position to maintain, program, integrate, design, and do other things that will them more lucrative and valuable."