Manufacturing is changing, but popular perceptions of factory work are antiquated. Assembly lines and manual labor are being replaced by automation and analytics, yet many Americans seem unaware of these advances. For U.S. companies, misperceptions and a lack of information mean that manufacturing may not attract the skilled talent that it needs. For American students, missing out on manufacturing is a mistake.
As Vicki Holt, the CEO of Proto Labs explains in an article for Tech Crunch, “manufacturing shouldn’t be a dirty word for today’s STEM talent.” Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs may be growing, but too many students perceive manufacturing as dull, dirty, low-paid, low-skilled work. Brains – not brawn – are now needed most, but are the best and the brightest getting the message?
Manufacturing is going high-tech while openings for skilled workers are going unfilled. Yet in a 2013 survey of U.S. manufacturing managers, 93% of respondents reported that manufacturing in North America will become increasingly important to a company’s success. Manufacturing is also reshoring while older, highly-skilled workers are retiring. Who will replace them?
Meanwhile, demand for STEM graduates could outpace supply. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, the United States faces a shortage of students and workers in STEM fields. For its part, the STEM Education Coalition reports that only 30% of U.S. high school seniors are even ready for college level work in science. Opinions about manufacturing matter, but there’s no substitute for skilled workers.
Is there more that manufacturers can do to attract and train STEM talent? For example, has your New York State manufacturing company participated in initiatives such as MFG Day, an annual event in October that’s designed to inspire the next generation of manufacturers?
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