As I sit on the plane flying back from the inaugural Close It Summit 2013 I find myself inspired by the number of people trying to make a difference for the common good in this country. There is such a dramatic need for the next generation of manufacturing employees and managers. It will take an army to create the excitement and a buzz, for not only young people to pursue engineering and manufacturing related career paths, but also the parents, mentors, influencers and guidance counselors to encourage and allow them to do such. I see several ways to accomplish this goal.
One is a comprehensive marketing program FOR manufacturing. A concise perception game changer as you may. I founded ChampionNow! for that exact purpose. Change How Advanced Manufacturing's Perceived In Our Nation -- NOW! Yes the longest acronym in a world of many. We need to put a positive spin on what people think to be a dark, dingy and depressing career sector. Instead there lies a world full of high technology, computerization and automation. One that requires desperately decision makers, problem solvers and the most innovative minds. Manufacturing prominence needs a whole new persona. The general public needs to view it as the valuable asset that it is, rather than the liability that people perceive it to be.
Two would be an expansion of not only internship programs but also externship programs. The employers need to become engaged at several levels. Everyone needs to do their part. We have fended for ourselves for way too long. We need to band together and make it easier for someone to FIND their way into the manufacturing sector. Too many influencers are not informed as to what manufacturing careers have to offer. The supply and demand factor is allowing for higher wages and more opportunities. We need to educate and inform the guidance counselors, teachers, and parents.
Three would be a rebirth of programs that would be called apprenticeships and/or creative school models. I have seen programs around the country that have unique methodologies to accomplish a goal.
One is GPS in Wisconsin and another is YearUp down south. These programs create school models directly in the workplace. Students go to school in the morning, and go to a manufacturing company in the afternoon where they meet as a collective group for engineering and hands on instruction. In Oklahoma City you have Francis Tuttle pre-engineering academy, where students travel from several surrounding schools to meet in the afternoon for engineering related course work. Whether these are private or public programs they ALL need to be supported and to succeed! In addition there are MANY high schools that are embracing STEM and Project Lead the Way curriculum.
There needs to be more. The single minded "go to a 4 year university" and AP class track to success needs to be just one of many chants in the hallways of high schools. We need AP Engineering and AP Manufacturing tracks for young people to pursue. These careers needs to be seen as honorable and good careers for tomorrow's young people. Manufacturing today is not what it was not long ago. Computerization and automation is becoming more the norm, rather than a theory. These are highly challenging positions that need innovative thinkers and problem solvers. Those that excel in math and science and are good with their hands will lead.
Four is the need for the opening of our manufacturing doors to show the country's next generation what the reality is. The trail end of the baby boomers are waiting with open arms to mentor these young people to take over and lead our country back to a time of manufacturing dominance. With the re-shoring initiative bring production back to the USA, we need more of the best and brightest to be ready to design and make products. We just completed our second National Manufacturing Day. We need to expand this to unprecedented levels of participation by manufacturing companies across the USA.
If we can somehow ALL get on the same bandwagon what an impact we could have! I offer a suggestion that ChampionNow! be that chant. This is the message for the country to bring manufacturing skilled workers back to the table. This past June my local congressman asked me to speak to the Small Business committee of the House of Representatives to tell the story of ChampionNow! and the difficulty small businesses have with manufacturing workforce. Each and every time I think that I need to step away from the ChampionNow! table, some organization -- manufacturing leader or workforce board tells me this is THE marketing message and solution for the USA. If I have my way the general public would know and see this message in every possible venue from USA Today, WSJ, New York Times, People magazine, to Sports Illustrated and more. Billboards. TV commercials. We need to get the word out!
What a positive message to tell those whom are not aware of the reality of what manufacturing careers have to offer. Let's all Champion the cause. Let's all become a ChampionNow!