As manufacturers, we’ve heard it all before:
- There aren’t enough skilled workers to fill the millions of manufacturing jobs available.
- The manufacturing skills gap is continuing to increase.
- Manufacturing is one of the most import drivers of the American economy.
We know and understand these issues, but until the younger generation gets it, the problem won’t go away. What kids need now is a new perspective on manufacturing.
Shifting the perspective of the younger generation
According to TechCrunch, manufacturing jobs are “believed to be dirty, grungy jobs for the under-educated.” Most kids don’t realize that manufacturers of today are innovators, creators, designers and critical thinkers. They don’t understand that the manufacturers and engineers of today are creating the world they’ll be living in tomorrow. Many people’s perception of manufacturing is so misguided by preconceived notions that they can’t see the incredible opportunities that come with an education and career in manufacturing.
These preconceived ideas about manufacturing come from decades of programming. TechCrunch notes, “Americans have clung to an outdated belief that manufacturing is low-skilled, menial work.”
The more that technology advances, especially with new innovations like the Internet of Things and generative design, the more outdated this belief becomes. In fact, every technological advance in the way we make things transforms manufacturing jobs into more intellectual and creative careers. TechCrunch highlights this fact by pointing out that factory workers of today work in areas of manufacturing that include engineering, information technology, robotics, design and many other highly intellectualized fields. The more specialized manufacturing careers become, the more fun and challenging they’ll be, and the more pay these careers will demand.
According to TechCrunch, even parents have preconceived ideas about manufacturing. Most parents do not encourage their kids to pursue manufacturing careers.
So how do we change this perception about manufacturing? We change the tune: Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks / Let ’em be manufacturers and engineers and such. Maybe it doesn’t have the same ring to it as Willie Nelson’s original, but the manufacturing industry offers many careers that parents would be proud for their kids to pursue, if they only knew.
Calling all makers
Organizations like STEM and Maker Faire are already getting kids involved with making. As manufacturers, we can help by promoting these organizations as often as possible. Spreading the word is important, and telling success stories is equally important.
EDTech magazine shares a story about Omkar Govil-Nair, an eight-year-old maker who designed his own 3D-printed smartwatch. Sharing stories like these by word-of-mouth or on social networks can inspire kids to investigate the work of making and help their parents see the value of manufacturing as a career.
More schools need to take steps to teach students about manufacturing. According to 3DPrint.com, 3D printing will be such a big part of everyday life that learning how to create 3D designs and use 3D printers will be very important for the next generation. Some schools are including 3D-making programs in their curriculum now.
Helping spread the word about the power of making in order to begin this shift in perspective when it comes to manufacturing can be as simple as telling a parent or their kids about free software and learning platforms available online. Autodesk offers free student software and Autodesk University offers many ways to learn about manufacturing.
Let’s get the conversation started now. What ideas do you have to help change America’s perspective about a career in manufacturing?