What will Foxconn jobs look like?

Article by Amy Greil, community natural resource and economic development educator, Kenosha and Racine Counties
Originally published in the Kenosha News.


My colleague Matt Kures from University Wisconsin-Extension’s Center for Community and Economic Development has been investigating potential impacts and aspects of the Foxconn Technology Group’s proposed entry into southeastern Wisconsin.

As the facility initially expects to employ 3,000 workers, with the potential to expand up to 13,000 employees, its magnitude generates both intense excitement and uncertainty.

What types of jobs might be generated? What levels of educational attainment or skills will be needed for these jobs? Are these jobs susceptible to replacement through automation or computerization?

 While only Foxconn will determine the true characteristics of the employees it needs, examining occupational and employment trends in a portion of the broader electronic components manufacturing industry could provide some insights.

To be sure, it is unlikely that Foxconn will neatly fit into any industry classification. However, the memorandum of understanding signed between the State of Wisconsin and Foxconn mentions that the new facility will manufacture thin-film-transistor liquid crystal displays (i.e. LCD screens).

Although this location will be the first of its kind in the United States, the North American Industrial Classification System classifies LCD manufacturing as part of the larger Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing Industry category. As this category also produces products that may be used as components in the LCD panel manufacturing process, employment information for this industry may also reflect a portion of the facility’s supply chain.

In terms of employment, production occupations account for the greatest share (37.6 percent) of employment in the nation’s semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing industry including assemblers, fabricators, and machinery operators among others. In contrast, architecture and engineering occupations account for almost 26 percent of the industry’s national employment (compared to just 6.5 percent in the overall manufacturing sector).

In fact, semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing has the highest national share of employment classified as architecture and engineering occupations among the 86 manufacturing categories at this level of industrial detail.

Occupations in the nation’s semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing industry also differ from the overall manufacturing sector in several other broad categories.

The industry has a greater share of employment in management, computer and mathematical, and business and financial occupations. Conversely, lower shares of employment are found in installation, maintenance and repair occupations; transportation and material moving occupations; and office and administrative support occupations. As a result, the occupational distribution for this industry tends to require a higher number of occupations that often require an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree.

I need to be clear that this overview is not specifically about the Foxconn facility, but rather a broader industry category that is like Foxconn. There are too many unknowns about Foxconn to make definitive statements about the facility. And this column is just skimming the surface of Kures’ full report. It includes other information on occupational concentrations, wage distributions, employment changes, productivity trends and automation susceptibility. Access it at http://cced.ces.uwex.edu/files/2017/07/oui.pdf