The National Association of Manufacturers is aiming to convince parents who think manufacturing jobs are boring or dead-end jobs that it’s actually a good career choice for their children.“The current overarching issue for our sector is perception,” said Carolyn Lee, the executive director of the Manufacturing Institute, which is the nonprofit, social-impact arm of the NAM. “We have a challenge where parents, if they think about manufacturing, they do recognize that it’s important to the national economy and national defense, and they think it’s an important sector, but only about 27% of parents think it’s a good job for their kid.”According to Lee’s research, a majority of parents consider a career in manufacturing to be boring, or worse, a dead-end pursuit that goes nowhere.“It’s dirty, dark, and dangerous [to parents],” Lee said. “If you ask an adult to draw a picture of manufacturing, they’ll draw a smokestack. Nothing could be further from the truth.”The negative perception parents have about manufacturing likely rubs off on their children, who then rule out manufacturing as a career choice.”We know from our research that parents are the biggest influencers outside the student’s own personal experience,” Lee said. Manufacturing provides larger salaries and benefits than other industries, averaging $88,000 versus $66,000 in other sectors, according to the latest data from 2017. Yet the manufacturing sector lost over 4 million workers since the turn of the century, according to the Labor Department. It is facing a 2.4 million shortfall in filled jobs by 2028, and fewer than 3 in 10 parents would encourage their children to undertake a career in manufacturing, according to a 2017 study published by NAM, Deloitte, and the Manufacturing Institute. According to a recent NAM survey, more than 70% of manufacturers cite the inability to attract skilled workers as their top challenge.“We already had higher average [wages] and more manufacture benefits than other sectors. These are good jobs. … We’ve got to spread the word that these are jobs that people want,” Lee said. To spread the word, NAM will kick off a national tour next Wednesday dubbed “Creators Wanted,” which is aimed at boosting job growth in their sector by changing the negative connotation that parents and their children have with pursuing a career in manufacturing. The 20-state tour will run from April to September and will target schools, state fairs, and other public events, including the presidential conventions in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The tour seeks to show how manufacturing has changed for the better by showing that plants are no longer dust bins.“The mobile tour is an interactive, immersive experience to demonstrate and put participants through the use of modern manufacturing technology. So how do we use coding, how do we use … 3D printing and laser printing — all of the things that we’re using in our sector today that we build into a mobile … type of experience so that you have this immersive, personal experience with technology to give you the full feel of what the sector looks like and what these jobs and these opportunities are about,” Lee said. The NAM is hoping to reach roughly 250,000 people through the tour.“The campaign [is] exactly what our industry and country need to build the talent pipeline and secure the future of manufacturing in the United States,” said Michael Lamach, the NAM’s newly elected board chair, in prepared remarks.
The tour’s overarching goals are to cut the skills gap by 600,000 workers by 2025, increase by 25% the number of students enrolling in technical and vocational schools, increase by 25% the number of students enrolling in apprenticeships and reskilling programs, and raise from 27% to 50% the number of parents who would encourage their children to pursue a career in modern manufacturing.