We are now officially one week from Manufacturing Day 2015! This day provides exposure for parents, students and educators to manufacturing firms to heighten awareness of manufacturing as a viable career option.
But, is the goal really to provide exposure? We at Versatech do agree that exposure is important, as is a heightened awareness. However, the REAL goal of Manufacturing Day 2015 is to change students’, educators’, and parents’ perception of manufacturing.
This country used to be enamored with the industrial enterprise. For decades in the early 1900’s, a student’s goal (particularly the male ones) after graduation was to get a job in a factory that would provide a stable income to support a family. The worker would “bring home the bacon” and all would be right with the world if he or she just worked in that coal mine, a steel mill or on an automotive assembly line.
Then, people started getting sick from working in coal mines. Many of them closed, leaving thousands jobless. There were deadly accidents in factories. Images of dirty, weary workers leaving their factory job when the whistle blew permeated the news. Factory smokestacks emitted dark, dingy smoke. And, as our country’s economy became more service-oriented and foreign companies started buying (and closing) large factories, a job in manufacturing turned from the “dream job” to “what you did if you didn’t have any other choice”.
Then, something funny happened. Companies started to invest in better safety practices, realizing the exponential cost of accidents. “Clean” coal technologies were developed and coal mines reopened. Innovation spurred new manufacturing facilities with automation and bright lighting. Dust collection units and improved ventilation resulted in cleaner facilities. Improved emission reduction technologies were used to turn the dark, sooty smoke to something resembling steam from a boiling pot.
By the time all this happened, however, schools had cut funding for shop classes and industrial trades training. Educational focus shifted to standardized tests and college preparation. The holy grail for many high school students was getting into college to be trained in service-oriented careers, not manufacturing.
But, what about those kids who loved to work with their hands? Or loved to build things? Or had a passion for projects? Kids engagement in high school, as measured by Gallup polls, dropped substantially, particularly for males. Not everyone was suited for service industries but kids who weren’t struggled to find a good career fit with their passion with no one to guide them into manufacturing careers or the trades.
Hence, the need for a change in perception. More kids need to see manufacturing as a clean, safe, well-paying career. They need to connect their passion for making things and project work with manufacturing jobs such as operators, technicians, supervisors, maintenance workers and safety professionals.
Manufacturing Day 2015 will showcase the variety of manufacturing careers available to students. Through open houses, expos and guided tours, the manufacturing community will come together to change perceptions. If you are a manufacturer in the Effingham, IL area, we hope you are participating in the Manufacturing Day Expo and tours. If you are a parent of an area grade school or high school student, take advantage of the opportunity to tour various area manufacturers, including Versatech, at open houses scheduled for the evening of October 2 (ours is from 4-6 pm).
If you are outside the Effingham area, you can still participate in Manufacturing Day activities by opening up your facility for tours and participating in organized Manufacturing Day activities. To find the Manufacturing Day activities in your area, go to http://www.mfgday.com/events.
While heightened awareness and exposure are important, the REAL goal of Manufacturing Day is to change perceptions. That is a huge task. By working together, however, the tide will turn and manufacturing will again be a “dream job”.