When we think of the Bay Area economy, we think of industry-leading technology titans and innovative start-ups. We think of a culture whose official language is code. But San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the broader region is bigger than the next killer app. It’s the new hub for an American manufacturing industry that’s making incredible progress.

The San Francisco company JUST, founded with a mission to make it easier for everyone to eat well, analyzes plant proteins to create healthier, more sustainable food products. A few short years ago, the only way to do that was by hand. But the company wanted to move faster and more efficiently, so it started to lean on manufacturers in laboratories to keep up with consumers’ increasing demand for better food. 

This is what modern manufacturing looks like: builders and makers working alongside engineers and computer scientists—and in JUST’s case, alongside computational biologists, chemists and chefs right here in the Golden State. Their work has helped JUST make delicious, affordable meals for people from Marin County to McDowell County, West Virginia.

There is a myth that technology comes at the expense of manufacturing jobs. In fact, the opposite is true: we can’t fill all the positions science has created. Right now, manufacturers in the United States are sitting on 380,000 job vacancies, a number that will grow substantially as manufacturers create 3.5 million high-skilled jobs over the next seven to eight years. But according to a study from Deloitte and the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Manufacturing Institute, 2 million of those jobs could go unfilled unless our country educates enough Americans with the right training.

Solving the skills gap is mission critical for the manufacturing industry and our broader economy. It doesn’t matter if a company makes car parts, biopharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence technology or sustainable food products. We need more students who have a good command of math and science and an eagerness to ask questions like “what if?” and “why not?”

Advanced skills will open up massive career opportunities for young people—and not just in Silicon Valley tech companies. Thousands of manufacturers will be competing for the talent and expertise of young people adept at 3-D printing, software that creates groundbreaking medicines, big data and even more tools not yet invented. These careers operate outside the bounds of traditional blue-collar and white-collar definitions. Consider them “new-collar” jobs—those that are high-tech, 21st century and well-paying, even ones that don’t require a four-year degree.

If students today get those advanced skills, we’ll see stable and rewarding careers for the next generation of workers, a thriving manufacturing industry that fuels our economy and a country that fulfills its promise of creating and making things the rest of the world wants to buy.

That’s why we’re excited about the future of manufacturing—and why a second myth about U.S. manufacturing—that it’s on the decline—is exactly backward.

A decade after the economic recession that threatened manufacturing in the United States, our country’s makers and creators have re-emerged stronger than ever. In a recent NAM survey, manufacturers are more optimistic than they have been in the past 20 years, and for good reason: they contribute $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy, a record high. That’s nearly $7,000 worth of U.S.-made products for every American man, woman and child. This resurgence is why innovative companies like JUST have been able to scale up and make a difference in food production.

Innovation re-inventing manufacturing is nothing new. Two centuries ago, people feared machines would replace workers who were making products by hand. Machines might have changed the nature of careers in manufacturing, but they also created a more efficient industry, and it made America’s economy the strongest on earth.

Innovation will continue to improve our productivity, economy and society. But here’s what will never change: the core of the industry will always be the men and women who go to work every day to build something bigger than themselves.