According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 264,000 job openings in manufacturing in March 2014. Although advances in technology have lead many to question the future job growth in the industry, trends show there is still a great demand for training. With baby boomers retiring, the future of the manufacturing sector will lie literally in the hands of the next generation to keep the industry going.
Many programs exist that help today’s children begin to learn about and build an excitement toward manufacturing. One of these programs includes a new initiative by Discovery Education and Alcoa Foundation entitled Manufacture Your Future.
This initiative and site, which launched on May 28, 2014 encourages educators, students, and parents to learn more about career opportunities in modern manufacturing. Some of the program highlights include encouraging youth to, “take on the brave new world of manufacturing and learn how to inspire the manufacturing innovations of the future.”
The program outlines free lesson plans rooted in Science, Technology, Engineering, an Manufacturing (STEM) principles that educators for grades 6-12 can use to help students explore career options and school-to-home connections. One project for students in grades 6-8 is to design a robot, while designing a shoe is one of the lesson plans for students in grades 9-12. Interactive videos help to explain the history of the manufacturing industry as well as explain how one manufacturing family has been a part of the industry for decades.
The idea for such an initiative was generated from conversations between employees of Discovery Education and Alcoa Foundation, who recognized that many manufacturing jobs are still not being filled.
New Technology Creates New Jobs
Despite the thought that technology would threaten the growth of the industry, there have been more than 600,000 jobs added, (rather than eliminated) since 2010, according to numbers released from the Commerce Department. Although the industry has made a come back in recent years, the nature of jobs has shifted to a focus on the use of computers and machines rather than traditional assembly lines.
Curtis Williams, columnist for CompanyWeek and a 25-year veteran of the manufacturing industry believes, “here will continue to be demand for production workers across the board — both technical and non-technical. The average blue-collar job used to require very little skill, but that’s changed. Workers now need to know how to set up and change over automated equipment with control panels. That means they need to be computer literate and understand the technical parameters of the finished product.”
Making Manufacturing A Priority
These outlooks on the industry and the programs that have been developed help support the Obama administration’s emphasis on making manufacturing a priority as outlined in a 2011 report. The report, released by the Presidents Council of Science and Technology created a plan that’s goal was to, “revitalize the advanced manufacturing sector in the United States.” This report resulted in the creation of an inter-agency office dedicated to helping the industry increase the number of production technologies.
In Warsaw, Indiana, another program from Ivy Tech teaches students about manufacturing through 3-D printers and Computer Aided Design (CAD) during a week-long summer camp geared towards students in grades 5-7.
While there was once doubt about the future of the manufacturing industry, it’s clear that the industry is changing and the educational needs are increasing. What was once considered blue-collar work is now requiring more educational experience. We must all encourage the next generation of America to take interest in the industry by embracing technology, rather than combatting it! This will help to ensure the U.S. manufacturing industry continues to thrive in the future.