The Myth of the Permanent Working Class

Future manufacturing jobs will require advanced training, skills.

Young foreman and engineer examining the metal in factory.
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He calls these workers "semi-engineers." They include computer-aided machine operators, machinists who use computers to make and assemble advanced technological components, and workers with an understanding of microchip technology.

"We are not there yet, but my solution is to take people not going to college and who like to work with things and their hands, and put them into community college for the junior and senior years of high school to learn this technology," he says. "Otherwise, the new working class are the low-wage workers flipping burgers at McDonald's and greeting customers at Walmart."

[Read: Basic Money Lessons You (Probably) Missed in High School.] 

Short-term relief, but long-term planning needed. Noftsinger says he's noticed an encouraging sign in recent months: Some small-business manufacturing jobs appear to be returning from overseas. Companies "can't get the quality from they want from Asian workers," he says.

But Noftsinger warns that simply bringing jobs back to America won't solve the manufacturing crisis. Only coordinated efforts between schools, the government, and the private sector will improve working class prospects, he says.

"My hope is that we can have more long-term focus in policy, education, and the economy to get back on a path that brings us to long-term prosperity," he says.