American manufacturing has been a troubled sector in recent decades. Between 2000-2010, the manufacturing sector lost close to six million jobs and closed 64,000 plants. Between 2010 and 2020, the productivity of U.S. manufacturers declined both in absolute terms and compared to key foreign competitors. The massive U.S. trade deficit in goods reached over $900 billion in 2020, including more than $190 billion in advanced technology goods.
Concerned about the strength of the U.S. industrial base, the DoD formed 9 of an eventual 16 advanced manufacturing institutes to help bring on new manufacturing technologies such as digital production, robotics, additive manufacturing, flexible electronics, photonics, and biofabrication. However, our workforce education system is not ready to provide the training we need in these new technologies.
The MassBridge project, funded by DoD ManTech, is an ambitious effort to plan and develop advanced manufacturing programs for community colleges and vocational-technical high schools in Massachusetts. It aims to extend traditional manufacturing training to include many common skills required for advanced manufacturing occupations, leaving only the “last mile” of technology-specific training for employers. In essence, MassBridge will be a bridge that helps to span the gap between education programs and employer needs in advanced manufacturing. The DoD hopes that MassBridge, once successful, can also be a model for efforts in other states.