When you think of a manufacturing environment, do unskilled workers in dark warehouses come to mind, or do you picture highly educated individuals working on exciting new technologies for devices and tools we use every day? The former image, inaccurate and outdated yet persistent, creates a bad rep for manufacturing careers, but a grassroots movement is working to change this perception and attract the next generation of manufacturing workers. On October 2, 2015, hundreds of organizations across North America will host thousands of events for the fourth annual Manufacturing (MFG) Day.
Through these events and related publicity, the manufacturing industry uses MFG Day to demonstrate contemporary manufacturing techniques, promote careers in manufacturing, and address common misconceptions about the industry. In 2014, 1,679 organizations hosted open houses and events; the movement was officially recognized by proclamations from dozens of government officials; and thousands of newspaper articles, tweets, and Facebook posts were published in support of the movement. There are more than 2,000 events already scheduled for MFG Day 2015, including a few in Mexico, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and more are being registered every day.
One of the greatest challenges facing manufacturing today is a severe shortage of labor. The industry supports 17.4 million U.S. jobs, but, as one MFG Day brochure put it, “Manufacturing environments are often thought of as dark, dangerous environments designed for low-skilled workers.” On the contrary, manufacturers are often on the forefront of innovation and product development, and there is an increasing need for highly educated and skilled workers. To this end, much of the focus of MFG Day is on reaching the next generation of manufacturing workers and educating students on what a career in manufacturing really looks like.
The events hosted by manufacturers are central to this effort, as they give interested students a direct look into manufacturing working environments and career prospects. These include plant tours and education fairs at institutions such as community and technical colleges. Plant tours, often the combined effort of manufacturers in the same industrial park, allow students and community members to observe manufacturing operations first-hand, direct questions to current manufacturing workers, and learn more about the high-tech world of advanced manufacturing production in action.
Growing the manufacturing workforce is a central mission for NEMA and its members, as manufacturing becomes increasingly global and technical. This year, NEMA is supporting MFG Day through social media involvement, encouraging member companies and others to participate in the movement. NEMA President and CEO Kevin J. Cosgriff will speak at today’s pre-Manufacturing Day conference in Chicago that will kick off the U.S. involvement in Hannover Messe 2016. Cosgriff will address the state of manufacturing in the U.S. and efforts to globalize the industry, as well as the challenges faced by the industry that are the primary focus of MFG Day.
Follow the conversation on social media with the official hashtag, #MFGDay15. Find out more on the official website or the MFG Day Community Planning Guide. RSVP to our Facebook event and tweet @nemaupdates with your ideas for what the industry can do to attract more bright young people to manufacturing careers.