The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association commissioned an Economic Impact Study on the RV industry, released on June 7, 2016. The study found that the RV industry contributes about $49.7 billion in economic output or 0.28 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Through its production and distribution linkages, the industry impacts firms in 426 of the 440 sectors of the United States economy.
Nationwide, the industry is responsible for 216,170 jobs, both directly and inderectly, creating an economic impact of $37.5 billion. The full study results, along with each individual state and congressional district's economic impact is available on the website by clicking here .
Wed Jun 28, 2017
Author: Linda Harty
The following selection of this story appeared in the June issue of RV News. To read the full story, click on the link below.
The scene looked like Take Your Kids to Work Day on steroids. More than 600 eighth graders descended on nearly 30 manufacturing companies in Elkhart County. The event, Manufacturing Week, is an example of something manufacturers, suppliers and the communities they're part of are doing to address a growing and well-known labor shortage.
Elkhart's first Manufacturing Week was held last October as part of nationwide Manufacturing Day activities. Manufacturing Day is an opportunity for manufacturers to take control of their public image and refute common misconceptions about manufacturing jobs. These employers open their doors and show what manufacturing is - and isn't - and they make positive connections with community members while raising awareness of a solid career path for the next generation.
The labor shortage in the RV industry, at both the manufacturer level and the dealership technician level, is common knowledge and is widespread. In Elkhart recently, during a roundtable of RV industry leaders and Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young, one source said several manufacturer bigwigs in attendance - including Thor President and CEO Bob Martin and Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert - said they're struggling to fill production workers jobs.
What may not be common knowledge, however, are the concerted efforts going on publicly and behind the scenes to address the problem. Becoming aware of and joining these efforts empowers the industry to work toward alleviating the shortage.
What's the Problem?
Defining a problem is the first step to solving it. Numerous studies, including a 2015 one by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, say that over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled, and 2 million of them might go unfilled. To look at it another way, the study indicates in the next 10 years, 57 percent of manufacturing positions needing to be filled in the United States will likely have no workers to do those jobs.
Assorted reasons have been cited for the labor shortage:
-An education system that produces too few STEP (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates. Plus, the STEM graduates produced are uninterested in manufacturing jobs, because of the next three reasons listed here.
-A generation that isn't as mechanically adept as previous generations.
-Misconceptions about the work, such as that workplaces aren't clean and progressive.
-Unawareness of the strong wages and benefits.
Dave Schutz, senior vice president of RV OEM sales for Dometic, cites a cause specific to the RV industry.
"Ninety percent of RVs are built within a 30-mile radius of Elkhart. We've tapped out the available human resources in this area," Schutz says. "There are just so many more opportunities for employment versus how many people live here. Elkhart County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country."
The shortage isn't limited to Elkhart County.
"Every RV dealership out there could use at least one or two more technicians. Other, larger companies could probably use more than two," says Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president, standards and education. "When you figure there are 10 million RVs on the road, and there are only 12,000 to 13,000 technicians, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can see there's a real need for as many as we can find and introduce to the industry. But it's not just the RV industry that has a shortage of people. Automotive technicians are down, everybody's down."
The low unemployment rate, combined with the need to provide a skilled workforce for the thriving RV industry - and provide places for those workers to live - has caught the attention of civic organizations, schools and other entities. Everyone understands the contribution that manufacturers make to a healthy economy. Assuring an adequate workforce contributes to a more secure economic future for everybody.
Mark Dobson, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Elkhart County, says there are about 20,000 jobs (in all industries) needing to be filled in Elkhart County.
"Around 35 percent of all the jobs in Elkhart County are related to the RV industry, so it's putting an extraordinary burden on the RV folks to continue to honor the pace that they are. To be fair to the industry and either unfair to or critical of ourselves, we as a community, sort of just rode the wave up, lacking perhaps, a vision of how we were going to continue to support the industry at the highest levels," Dobson says. "As the industry has exploded, especially over the past two years, where it seems like every week a new record is broken or a new opportunity is identified for the marketplace, there has not been a cohesive strategy for (expanding the local) workforce.
"We're late to the table, but the RV industry is doing an extraordinary job of trying to provide the resources to the community to help address this shortage, whether it's a media campaign to attract a larger available workforce, or whether it's providing the right people to help with developing the appropriate training programs, those sorts of things."