Why NOT Manufacturing?

Did you watch the presidential debate last Tuesday night?  I did, it was the best debate that I’ve ever seen.  Many others with longer frames of reference than me are saying the same thing.

This isn’t a blog where I’m going to analyze the debate and weigh in on who I think won and who lost.  There are thousands of media types and bloggers that have that job, and they are welcome to it.

But there was a moment in the “town hall” debate last Tuesday where one of the audience members asked what the candidates proposed to help college students have more opportunities to land jobs after graduation.  Both candidates included manufacturing in their responses.  It wasn’t the first or the last time that manufacturing was mentioned that night, which is a good thing.

One of the great things about Twitter is that you can read and post commentary about live events as they happen.  It was very interesting to read my Twitter timeline during the debate.  I stopped when an old friend, who happens to be a member of the media (notice I didn’t say “liberal” or “left-wing” media), sent out a tweet saying that college graduates would not be interested in working in manufacturing.  Obviously, that didn’t sit well with me, and we had a bit of back and forth about it yesterday.

One of the other interesting things that I’ve noticed about this election year is the higher level of interest shown by younger people.  My daughter, a high school junior that is too young to vote, has watched all of the debates so far.  And so have many of her friends.  Can you imagine being interested enough to follow presidential and vice-presidential debates at age 16 or 17?  I can’t.  That was a real eye opener for me.

Anyway, my daughter was having Twitter exchanges during the debate with her friends as well.  One of her friends commented that no one should believe that high-wage, high-skill jobs would be found in manufacturing.

So in real-time during the debate exchange on the topic, friends of ours in the media AND a great student were stating their doubt that manufacturing could be part of the jobs solution for those with an education.

Folks, this is the perception that we have to turn around.

If the media doesn’t think we are viable as an industry and as job creators, that’s a big problem.  If students don’t think we are a viable career path, that’s a HUGE problem.  If no one out there is telling the story of manufacturing, and up-and-coming entrants into the workforce won’t give us a look, our days as a viable industry are numbered.  I know, many people have been saying that for years, but I happen to think that rumors of our demise are a bit premature.

 Here are some highlights about the economic impact of manufacturing in America:

  • Manufacturing accounts for 12.2% of US GDP
  • Manufacturing employs 12 million people, or 9% of the workforce
  • Manufacturing unemployment rate 11.5% BELOW the national average
  • Manufacturing annual earnings 36.8% ABOVE the national average
  • 19.4% of all good manufactured globally are made in the US
  • If the US manufacturing economy were its own country, it would rank #9 in the world

Can you believe that we have people that don’t understand the impact and opportunities of manufacturing in this country?  It’s mind blowing.  We have to change the decades-old perception that manufacturing is a dying industry, and we have to do it quickly.

Take a look around wherever you are right now.  Anything man made that you see was MANUFACTURED somewhere.  We really couldn’t live our daily lives as we do today without manufacturing.

We have to get this information out there, by any means necessary, so that the next generation understands that we WANT highly skilled, educated people in our manufacturing businesses and that they have the opportunity to earn ABOVE AVERAGE income in exchange for those skills.

Many others have written about the outreach efforts that are needed for manufacturing but are lacking at present.  Tuesday’s debate crystallized the need as starkly as ever for me.

Bryan Peters

2 thoughts on “Why NOT Manufacturing?

  1. Nice post, Bryan. You might also be interested in this IndustryWeek article “US Manufacturing Needs A Brand Makeover” http://bit.ly/RhBPXc by Eileen Markowitz, president of Thomas Industrial Network, an information and technology company that connects manufacturing and industrial buyers and sellers. She shares your view that younger generations have not gotten the message that manufacturing jobs are high tech and well paid career choices.

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