A study from Deloitte, the multinational professional services network, revealed that less than 5 in 10 Americans believe manufacturing jobs are rewarding, stable, safe, or secure. Only 3 in 10 would encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing.
The truth is that the manufacturing industry is making significant technological advances and steadily becoming more sophisticated as new jobs are created. Plus, the field is diversifying in terms of workforce and opportunity.
Nevertheless, there are several misconceptions causing the disconnect for parents.
According to Fred Ross, founder and CEO of Custom Truck, a $1 billion equipment enterprise, there are four common misconceptions about the field of manufacturing:
- There are no jobs in manufacturing: It’s true that the industry did see a decline in jobs in the last decade, but that is changing. Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the U.S., and many different kinds of jobs are available. It’s estimated that there are between 400,000 and 500,000 open positions in manufacturing right now. The long-term manufacturing employment prospects are bright, too, as 22 percent of skilled American manufacturing workers, roughly 2.7 million employees, will retire in the next ten years due to economic expansion and Baby Boomer retirements. The industry could be up to 2 million workers short of its needs in the coming years.
- Manufacturing is not innovative: To the contrary – manufacturing is now on the cutting edge of industry with a vast range of job opportunities available. Manufacturing leaders are continuously looking to innovate, including making jobs more efficient and adopting new technology to streamline internal operations (without eliminating positions). And as technology replaces many of the manual or repetitive tasks many manufacturing jobs entail, it frees up space for skills that are uniquely human: critical thinking, creative problem-solving, people management – and the digital skills to use today’s technologies.
- Manufacturing is unsafe: Thanks to essential advancements in technology, widely accepted best practices and required industry standards, manufacturing is cleaner and safer than ever before. Companies prioritize safe and healthy working conditions and the protection of employees above all else.
- Automation is replacing workers: Automated equipment changes the nature of some manufacturing positions and creates a need for different skill sets and expertise. So, while automation is changing the way manufacturing works by handling many repetitive tasks, it doesn’t mean replacing workers. Today’s manufacturing jobs are more focused on planning and creative problem-solving.
I’ll add two more misconceptions:
- Manufacturing careers are suited only for those without a college education: It’s true that a large percentage of manufacturing jobs can be obtained with only a high school education. But, about 25 percent of manufacturing employment is at a level requiring a four-year college degree. The vast majority of the remaining 75 percent require at least one year of post-secondary education in technology.
- Manufacturing jobs don’t pay well: Actually, American manufacturing workers earn nearly 30 percent more (including pay and benefits) than workers in other industries.
That leads me to an initiative I’ve been involved with for several years: the “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” video contest. This contest seeks to educate and excite today’s tech-savvy students, as well as their parents and educators, about the fantastic careers in advanced manufacturing today. This statewide contest partners teams of eighth-grade students with a local manufacturer to explore the company’s “cool” products, services, and career opportunities via the creation of a 2- to 2.5-minute, documentary-style video. The contest was created in 2013 to draw students toward manufacturing career paths and CTE (Career Technical Education) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.
This year’s contest is currently underway with 11 teams of eighth-grade students from middle schools across Chester and Delaware counties. Everyone is invited to participate in the online voting for this year’s Viewer’s Choice Award, which will take place on March 16, 17, and 18 on the contest website. The project culminates in the Awards Ceremony at Penn State Great Valley on April 6.
In this region, the “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” video contest is an initiative of the Chester County Economic Development Council’s Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties. The program is made possible with support from the CCEDC, the Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties, the Chester County Workforce Development Board, and Delaware County Community College. Technical support is provided by the Chester County Intermediate Unit.
The sponsors of this year’s video contest in Chester and Delaware counties are CCRES Educational and Behavioral Health Services (Platinum Sponsor), RETTEW and Delaware County Community College (Gold Sponsor), Aerzen USA, ifm prover, Kreischer Miller, and Malvern Bank, National Association (Silver Sponsors), and Penn State Great Valley (Event Venue Sponsor).
Sponsorships for this year’s contest are still available. For sponsorship information, contact Tracey Oberholtzer at email@example.com.
This year’s featured manufacturers are Bender, Inc.; CPV Manufacturing; Idemia; ifm prover; JGM; Loparex; New Way Air Bearings; Omega Design Corporation; ONExia, Inc.; R-V Industries, Inc.; and United Safety & Survivability Corporation.
To learn more about Malvern Bank’s focus on independent schools, including the specialized products and services we offer to the academic sector, contact me, Mark Cohen, Senior Vice President, Independent School Division, at 610-695-3659 or Schools@MyMalvernBank.com.
Mark Cohen, the Marketing Chair of the Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties, is a Senior Vice President at Malvern Bank, National Association. The bank is headquartered in Paoli and has focused on providing quality lending, deposit, and wealth management services to the community for 134 years.