Reshoring Manufacturing Jobs – Students need employable skills for New Collar Workforce

America celebrates workers on Labor Day as teachers return to the classroom to prepare the students to join the workforce and or continue on to college. These events remind Americans of the days when “employable skills” were the currency of the labor market, and workers were proudly making things at home while working at well-paying jobs on a pathway to making their “American Dream,” a reality.

So, what changed? Companies started to believe they could produce products offshore, like in China, at lower costs. Little did they know, when they considered all the related cost and quality issues, these products could often be produced competitively at home, without all the supply chain disruptions along with the hidden overhead costs.

Reshoring Manufacturing Jobs

Harry Moser, founder, and president of the Reshoring Initiative is leading the practice of bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. from overseas. It’s a fast and efficient way to strengthen the U.S. economy because it helps balance the trade and budget deficits, reduces unemployment by creating good, well-paying manufacturing jobs, and fosters a skilled workforce.

Reshoring benefits manufacturing companies by reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) for their products, improving balance sheets, and making product innovations more effective. The Reshoring Initiative is focused on helping companies shift collective thinking from “offshoring is cheaper” to “local reduces the total cost of ownership.”

At about the same time as offshoring was reducing the demand for manufacturing workforce, students and their parents were told and believed college was the only pathway to good-paying careers. They are now discovering that employable skills are what employers need, not just a degree.

Employable Skills

After decades of pushing a college education, the U.S. is experiencing a growing shortage of career-ready workers with employable skills and talents needed to sustain and grow businesses and the economy. Students and their parents are now focusing on “career pathway programs” that have high job placement rates and wages with benefits, coming with little or no debt, which are meeting employers’ demands for new hires, and the Navy’s needs for shipbuilders and new recruits.

These new-collar employees are individuals who have developed the technical and soft skill credentials earned through educational career pathways and workforce development programs. They may or may not have a four-year college degree. Instead, they can be educated and trained through career and technical pathway programs offered by public schools, community colleges, vocational schools, software boot camps, industry certification programs, on-the-job apprenticeships, and internships.

Like many employers and states. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is moving the commonwealth toward skills-based hiring practices. This landmark change in hiring practices will improve the hiring processes, expand possibilities, and career paths for job seekers and place a focus on skills-based career opportunities.

The time has come for reimagining new-collar career pathways to address the challenges of replenishing and upskilling Virginia and the nation’s workforce. Communities and employers, in collaboration with schools, need to focus more on graduating skilled & career-ready citizens who are rediscovering the value of Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs in preparing students for the workforce of the future.

According to federal data, students who complete at least two-course credits in a career pathway have a 95% graduation rate – roughly 10% higher than the national average. At-risk students stay in school. High–risk students are eight to ten times less likely to drop out in the 11th and 12th grades if they enroll in a CTE program. A 2019 study found that students who completed a CTE pathway scored significantly higher on the ACT composite math, science, English, reading and writing assessments than those who did not.

To address these challenges Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) is searching to find and share best practice programs with communities to prepare and graduate students with “employable skills.” AME is dedicated to the continuous improvement and enterprise excellence journey of its members, To learn more join them October 30-November 2, 2023, in Cleveland, Ohio, for the 39th annual AME International Conference.

AME has selected New Horizons Regional Education Centers (NHREC) Good Life Solution Program (GLS) as one of its best practice career pathways programs. The GLS program is a collection of partnerships between NHREC Career & Technical Education initiatives and local employers who pledge to recruit, hire, onboard and retain their graduates right out of High School. GLS provides a robust talent pipeline of local high school seniors looking to transition from high school to full-time employment (with benefits) in various career pathways. See 2023 Career Selection Day shown below:

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New Horizons Regional Education Centers is a premier regional education organization that aspires to be a model for the Commonwealth and the country offering specialized programming to create empowered individuals and a world-class workforce. It has been so successful in its mission that in the upcoming school year they have twice as many applicants as they have capacity to accept.

Career Pathways Moving Forward

In the future, the education systems will focus on helping teachers to learn (what a student knows and can do) and then enabling students to learn and earn credits based on demonstrated competencies for graduation at a pace that fits their learning potential. Instead of the traditional emphasis on test scores along with age and “seat time” for advancement and graduation.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was chartered by an act of Congress in 1906. Since then, it has pioneered a broad range of transformative advancements in K–12 and higher education. Like a competency-based learning (CBL) approach designed to ensure students can demonstrate mastery of a subject/skill to earn credits for graduation.

High School students can earn credit toward graduation in other ways, including apprenticeships, blended learning, dual enrollment, career and technical education programs, and other learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom setting. Students who can demonstrate mastery of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills in the workplace are in high demand. Youth and adult learners enrolled in career pathways programs are more engaged, graduate high school at higher rates, earn industry-recognized credentials and have rewarding and family-sustaining careers. Students who embrace being part of the next generation of new-collar professionals can make “Made in America” and the “American Dream” a reality for themselves and their communities.

Glenn Marshall of Williamsburg, Virginia serves on the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Management Team and leads best practice sharing through benchmarking to close the skills gap for the 4.0 Industrial Revolution. To learn more about AME go to or email Glenn at

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