Manufacturing Day Aims to Attract Youth to Hands-On Careers

This Friday is Manufacturing Day, a chance for young people to see manufacturing in action across America.

More than 150 manufacturers will be opening up their doors to students, parents, educators, youth groups, and media in an attempt to improve the image of manufacturing careers and provide information on career opportunities, training, and other resources.

There’s little doubt that initiatives like this are much-needed. Sixty one percent of American teens have never visited a manufacturing facility, according to a recent poll by the Foundation of Fabricators and Manufacturers Association (FMA), and only one-quarter of teens have ever taken a shop class.

A downturned economy has also negatively impacted the number of in-house apprenticeships and internships available to young people.

Conversely, there’s a growing need for skilled workers across the board as baby boomers retire and manufacturing jobs begin to reshore in response to changing economics and increased risk in traditionally low-cost-labor countries.

A 2011 skills gap report from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found that 67 percent of manufacturers are currently experiencing a shortage of qualified skilled workers, while according to a Forbes survey, 40 percent of U.S. companies won manufacturing business this year that had previously been off-shored.

So why aren’t more young people going into manufacturing?

The majority of Americans believe that manufacturing is essential to a prosperous economy and quality standard of living, yet there remains a perception that manufacturing careers are second-rate and entail mostly backbreaking, mindless labor.

The evidence shows that today’s parents tend to steer their kids away from manufacturing careers, and many teachers and counselors often feel compelled to push students toward four-year college degrees rather than positioning manufacturing as a viable and preferred career choice. Ongoing budget cuts to education compound the problem, with only six percent of high schools in the U.S. offering shop classes, according to the FMA.

Manufacturing Day—sponsored in part by the FMA—is an opportunity to dispel the lack-luster image of manufacturing. Industry is encouraged to clean shop, show off its snappiest technology, provide hands-on experiences, and discuss the high-tech skills required in today’s manufacturing jobs.

“Manufacturing Day will be the ‘coming out party’ for U.S. manufacturers all across the nation,” says Ed Youdell, president and CEO of the FMA. “October 5th is dedicated to celebrating the great work and innovation of the 12 million men and women who make the United States the world’s largest manufacturing economy.”

Find a Manufacturing Day event near you.

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