Skills and innovation strategies to strengthen manufacturing: Lessons from Germany

This new report by Joseph Parilla, Jesus Leal Trujillo and Alan Berube examines Germany’s model for industrial competitiveness and how it can be applied in U.S. cities, metro areas, and states.

The report’s conclusions are based on a recent study tour to Munich and Nuremberg as part of the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase. That study tour broughttogether 40 U.S. business, civic and government leaders, including many of you, to explore how Germany has maintained a robust industrial base through public-private collaborations on applied research to support innovation and a dual model of vocational education and apprenticeships to sustain a highly trained workforce. Together, these two systems have helped strengthen Germany’s manufacturing base and support a strong middle class.

Although recognized as global best practices, these models cannot be imported wholesale into the United States. Rather, three key takeaways should guide U.S. practitioners and policymakers seeking to adapt German skills and innovation best practices to support advanced industries here at home:

  • regional collaboration between public, private, and civic actors;
  • targeted institutional intermediaries that address market and coordination failures; and
  • incentive-based investments to support small and medium sized businesses

The report concludes with promising examples from places as diverse as Louisville-Lexington, Michigan, San Diego, and South Carolina that have adopted these elements of success to strengthen their own advanced industries. We hope that these examples and other findings from the report are helpful to your own work around workforce development, innovation, and industrial competitiveness.

For the full report: Skills and innovation strategies to strengthen manufacturing: Lessons from Germany