MEMA study shows ramifications of NAFTA withdrawal

The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) released new research last week that determined withdrawal or dramatic modification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could negatively affect companies already struggling with recruitment.

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From among MEMA members, motor vehicle parts manufacturers were found to be already struggling with labor shortages. In fact, 72 percent of MEMA members reported a skilled labor shortage, with the additional worry that more than 45 percent of existing skilled and professional staff are eligible for retirement in the next five years. This has resulted in nearly 80 percent of companies not pursuing certain business opportunities due to lack of staffing, and nearly 70 percent looking outside traditional methods to help alleviate their workforce and skill woes.

It is a bad situation that MEMA reports would only be exacerbated by NAFTA overhauls. Specifically, they analyzed the policies the Trump administration has pushed in negotiations and determined they could further increase demand for these understaffed jobs.

“NAFTA has been good for the motor vehicle supplier industry and for American jobs,” MEMA President and CEO Steve Handschuh said. “We have seen a 19 percent growth in U.S. employment over the last four years, and we would like to see that continue with the support of an open market and robust supply chain. Efforts to bring jobs back to the U.S. are commendable, but we have to acknowledge that our plants are at or near capacity and that many manufacturers are already having a hard time filling jobs and maintaining a qualified workforce.”

MEMA did applaud an executive order meant to add more apprenticeships. However, they seemed to imply the Administration’s focus is on the wrong areas overall, and that what is needed are streamlined administrative processes, flexibility in apprenticeship programs, and more apprenticeship programs for more occupations beyond traditional areas.