Changing Perceptions, Celebrating Skills on Manufacturing Day

Close your eyes and picture a manufacturing workplace. What do you see? You might have some obsolete ideas that come to mind. Today, advanced manufacturing is full of clean spaces, high tech, state-of-the-art equipment and workers who earn more than the national average.

On Manufacturing Day, we joined the industry to dispel the myths, raise awareness about the career opportunities available in a variety of fields and bring to light the fact that there are not enough skilled workers for the positions available in manufacturing companies.

According to a 2011 skills gap report by the National Association of Manufacturers, 67 percent of manufacturers reported a shortage of qualified workers, and 56 percent anticipate that shortage to only increase in the next three to five years. Other interesting stats:
  • More than 70 percent of Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong economy but...
  • Only 30 percent of parents are encouraging their children to enter manufacturing.
  • While 77 percent of people in the U.S. fear the loss of domestic manufacturing jobs to other countries...
  • Only 17 percent of people see manufacturing as a top career choice.
It's time for public perception to catch up with reality.

Jobs in manufacturing aren't menial, suited for only the least educated where minimum wage is the best that can be expected.

Some more eye-opening facts:
  • The average manufacturing worker in the U.S. earned $77,060, including pay and benefits, in 2011.
  • In comparison, the average worker in all industries earned $60,168 annually.
  • The entry level annual salary for manufacturing engineers is nearly $60,000.
  • The highest paid new college graduates are chemical manufacturing engineers.
  • Ninety percent of manufacturing workers have medical benefits, and 78 percent get retirement contributions from their employers.
  • Manufacturing workers have the highest job tenure in the private sector.

Has your image of manufacturing changed yet?

To remain competitive globally, we need an educated, highly skilled workforce dedicated to taking raw materials and transforming them into innovative products.

Last month the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $474.5 million in grants to community colleges and universities around the country. The awards are part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program, which is a $2 billion multi-year federal initiative designed to expand targeted training programs for unemployed workers.

Being the state's only university of applied technology, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology emphasizes and showcases manufacturing. It's one reason we received not one, but two of these grants totally $4.4 million, including a $2.75 million advanced manufacturing grant.

The grant will fund the expansion of our Career Pathways for Adult Workers program to offer more night and weekend classes, lab offerings and online courses.

It's all about creating opportunities, offering support and providing workforce training to those who want to enter the evermore-critical field of manufacturing.

Let's celebrate these opportunities beyond #mfgday. For America to be strong economically, we must embrace the promise of manufacturing.