When you stand before numerous classes of Middle School students, ask them if they know what manufacturing is and after a sea of blank stares, one student offers up a sheepish guess, you know there is a long path stretched out before you.
It’s time to stop writing about the lack of skilled talent available to manufacturing and stepping out and doing something.
Manufacturing suffers from a lack of attention because manufacturing suffers from a lack of exposure.
Back into the 1930’s through the World War II build-up manufacturing employment represented nearly 40% of the workforce. This means the children in this country had a 4 out of 10 chance of having an adult family member working in manufacturing. From discussions around the dinner table to family gatherings, practically everyone knew someone that had a manufacturing career.
Manufacturing Jobs, percentage of total jobs January 1939 to March 2010
By the 1970’s, still nearly 25% of the workforce made their living from manufacturing. With the oil crisis led auto fuel mileage focus, making things like cars was still in the forefront of the news.
Once we hit the 90’s, we started approaching only 1 in 10 people working in manufacturing. Regardless of related stories, depending on your location or situation, it started to get unlikely that you had a relative or acquaintance working in manufacturing. That lack of exposure does not just apply to students; it applies to the education workforce as well. A local Chamber of Commerce offered to take teachers new to the district on a tour of the town. A number of existing teachers went along and none of them knew of the manufacturing companies that they drove past or stopped to visit.
Manufacturers need to get out of their plants and talk. We need to make bridges, arouse interest, and get people (students, teachers, administrators) into our plants and get people talking again about what great opportunities, careers, and pay we have to offer.
We can no longer afford to rely on word of mouth, we need to get vocal!
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