Did you know that manufacturing supports more than 17.4 million U.S. jobs? That’s pretty incredible. Here’s more good news—there are many opportunities for young people to become part of the manufacturing workforce. Now, prepare yourself for the not-so-good news. It seems that young people are not tripping over themselves to pursue this career path. Take this Washington Post headline: “There are some jobs now in manufacturing. Kids just aren’t interested in taking them.” While there is more evidence to support this assertion, there is also hope of a turnaround. Manufacturers are pushing young people to reconsider long-held preconceptions about manufacturing careers; they want these young people in their workforce. Pamela Prah with Pew Charitable Trusts looks at these efforts in her article “Selling Manufacturing to a New Generation.”
The fourteen words contained in the Post headline is the perfect impetus for Manufacturing Day 2014 (MFG DAY). Observed today, MFG DAY is a coordinated occasion during which U.S. manufacturers open their doors to demonstrate the potential of modern manufacturing and foster interest in manufacturing careers. NEMA is an endorser of MFG Day 2014.
Lydia DePillis, the author of the aforementioned Post article, asks the question of the hour: why is it so difficult to get kids interested in pursuing manufacturing careers? Two of her interviewees—one who works in job placement for a community college and the other a human resources manager for a furniture manufacturer—agree that the jobs just don’t seem very glamorous. Sure, manufacturing jobs don’t involve a red carpet entrance into the plant, but the manufacturing careers of today aren’t the same as yesteryear.
DePillis writes, “The industry sure does look a lot different these days. It’s typically clean and sanitary, with robots to do most of the heavy lifting and powerful machines instead of belching furnaces. But that image hasn’t translated to the young people looking for jobs in a tough economy—or perhaps more importantly, their parents, who might have learned from hard experience that manufacturing jobs disappear and a four-year college degree is the only sure route to the middle class.”
Increasing the manufacturing workforce is a task important to NEMA, not just today, but years from now. In 2010, NEMA began the “Vids for Grids: New Media for the New Energy Workforce” project, a video series that has had more than 17,000 views on YouTube this year alone. As part of this effort, NEMA produced a series of short videos to demonstrate Smart Grid equipment, explain electrical engineering concepts, and portray careers in electrical manufacturing. These videos are geared toward high school seniors and college students, and have been used in engineering classes at George Mason University.
Follow the conversation today via the official Twitter hashtag for MFG DAY “#MfgDay14.” Share with @Nemaupdates what you think can be done to get more young people interested in manufacturing careers.