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Editorial: Midstate manufacturing a new way to succeed

While the U.S. remains a manufacturing power on the world stage, manufacturing jobs have steadily declined for decades. In many areas of the country, the recent recession finished off plants or companies unable to withstand a knock-down blow.

While the midstate has not been immune from this trend, statistics tell a slightly more optimistic story. Although one in seven manufacturing jobs disappeared between the last quarter of 2007 and the end of 2012, wages kept up for those still employed and many businesses remain strong.

Also telling is the midstate response to the changing economic landscape. Rather than adopting a predictable approach of clinging to the past, doubling down on efforts to retain or attract moribund industries, and spending millions on tax and relocation incentives, stakeholders here are turning a realistic eye toward the future.

The irreversible, structural change in all types of manufacturing has been driven mainly by new technology and techniques that require fewer, but more-skilled, workers. The questions now are how to find and prepare those workers to meet employers' needs.

The two-part series on manufacturing employment in the midstate wrapping up in this issue of the Business Journal highlights a number of specific approaches being adopted to ensure manufacturing remains a healthy component in the midstate economy.

Workforce experts are rethinking job-matching methods for today's workers. Schools are re-examining educational paths for the workers of tomorrow. Together, they're bringing students and employers together to enable better communication about opportunities and how to prepare for them. Development groups are identifying growth industries already putting down roots in the midstate and marketing the area's assets to similar businesses.

Rather than resisting change, all these groups are embracing it. And they are working together on strategies to reshape a vibrant, diversified economy.

Among the standout efforts are the York County Economic Alliance and the South Central Workforce Investment Board partnering on an extensive, ongoing survey to identify hiring patterns, employer needs and desired skill sets. The results will be used to accelerate the demand-training-placement employment cycle. And in Lancaster County, the Occupational Skill Training is providing shorter, focused training courses for specific skills so employers can fill openings with qualified candidates more quickly.

The takeaway in all this for businesses? Amid the pressure to maintain a skilled, competitive workforce, you are not alone. Speak up, and you'll find a cadre of folks eager to assist.

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