This report provides a detailed examination of Advanced Manufacturing in the Berkshire region. This re- port is part of an eight-part series, each focusing on different areas of the Commonwealth. It examines re- cent employment and earnings trends; analyzes key occupations in Advanced Manufacturing’s subsectors, looking for common labor needs and comparing wages to similar workers in other industries; identifies the most common and critical skills needed by employers; and offers a detailed demographic profile of Advanced Manufacturing to highlight areas of critical concern for the future health of the industry.
The Advanced Manufacturing sector in the Berkshires is the second smallest of the seven regions, exceeding only the Cape and Islands where manufacturing is all but non-existent. Yet it accounts for just under
4,000 employees or roughly six percent of the region’s entire employment base—a notable share for a region otherwise dominated by the low-wage sectors such as hospitality, trade and services. The Advanced Manufacturing sectors importance to the regional economy is further underscored by the fact that it is the highest paying of all the major sectors in the Berkshires. The region’s largest and most highly specialized subsectors are Paper and Printing and Chemicals and Plastics. The region has relatively few businesses or workers in Medical Equipment and Supplies, Computers and Electronics, and Food Processing.
Advanced Manufacturing has struggled over the past several decades, but there are signs of hope. Since 2001, the region has lost nearly half of its entire Advanced Manufacturing employment base. The relative burden of these losses have been far worse than any other region. Things have been particularly bad in the Fabricated Metals and Machinery and in Paper and Printing subsectors, which together account for more than 80 percent of all layoffs in Advanced Manufacturing. Yet these layoffs have abated in recent years.
The Advanced Manufacturing sector has actually added a small number of jobs since 2010—although it still lags national trends of net job creation. Most of these recent gains were in in Food Processing and Production, with Chemicals and Plastics and Fabricated Metals also showing signs of recovery.
The aging of the Advanced Manufacturing workforce poses a major challenge to the Berkshire region. The Advanced Manufacturing workforce is the oldest of any region in the state. Over 60 percent of the Advanced Manufacturing workforce will reach retirement age within the next twenty years, and the region has relatively few people under the age of 25 to take their place. While outreach and training programs aimed younger workers would certainly help, employers and workforce officials should also look to recruiting non-traditional manufacturing workers—particularly women who are highly underrepresented even in comparison to other regions in the Commonwealth.