By Dan Davis
It’s amazing what a new presidential administra- tion can do to energize the manufacturing com- munity.
The unemployment rate stands at 4. 3 percent,
the lowest it’s been in 16 years, and total nonfarm
payroll employment increased by 209,000 in July,
even if employment numbers in the manufacturing sector didn’t change a whole lot from the previous month. Also in July, average hourly earnings
of private-sector production and nonsupervisory
employees increased by 6 cents to $22.10, which is
good news given the stagnant nature of wages since
the Great Recession. Metal fabricators apparently
aren’t losing any sleep about President Donald
Trump’s plans for the economy.
In fact, according to The FABRICATOR’s 2017 “What
Keeps You up at Night?” survey, half of the fabricators surveyed believe that elected o;icials in the
nation’s capital are finally listening to the needs of
manufacturers. That’s a significant jump from the
roughly 18 percent that felt the same way in 2015.
That percentage was even lower according to 2013
and 2011 surveys.
So what’s the No. 1 concern for metal fabricators?
It’s a refrain that has been heard consistently the
last five times this survey has been done. Fabricators are concerned about the availability of skilled
workers. This becomes a larger concern if fabricators are faced with an opportunity to take on more
business, but struggle to do so because they can’t
find the right workers. Fi;y-six percent of the fabricators surveyed said that their businesses will be
growing in 2017.
Concerned about finding skilled workers, fabrica-
tors are vocal in what they would like governmental
agencies to do:
• “Emphasis on skill-based trades to kids in high
• “Have more relevant contract training programs
that can be done on-site and that align with
• “We need a fundamental change in national
education policy to focus on STEM courses and
flow that down to vocational education.”
• “Better schools and better career training in high
• “Encourage industries to aggressively start ap
• “Return shop classes to high schools so kids
have an introduction to potential manufacturing
Of course, refrains such as “Drain the swamp!” and
“Repeal Obamacare!” were also part of the open-
ended responses from fabricators. But the large
majority of them wanted to see a brighter future for
their chosen profession.
It should come as no surprise then that fabricators are taking matters into their own hands. Fi;y
percent of respondents indicated that their No. 1
focus in the area of human resources and workforce
What Keeps You
up at Night?
finding the right help
still a concern for fabricators
2017 2015 2013 2011 2009
What Keeps You up at Night?
Availability;of;skilled;workers Economy Availability;of;credit Meeting;increased;customer;expectations
The approximately 100 fabricators that participated in this survey ranked a series of concerns from 1 to 13 that
might keep them up at night. The interest in finding skilled workers has been a consistent theme in the post-Great
Recession years, ranking as the No. 1 concern now for three surveys over six years. But now it has been joined
by a slight rise in the concern of keeping up with customers’ increasing demands. It should be noted that while
concerns such as “consolidation of customer base” and “cost of raw materials” did not garner as many votes for
the top concern as “availability of skilled workers,” they were mentioned quite heavily as one of the fabricators’
top three concerns.