Manufacturing and Education

Bert Maes, an expert in technical education, came up with this useful multi-part guide on how to convince youth to pursue careers in manufacturing.  He raises excellent points on how much manufacturing means to the economy, how much manufacturers need skilled workers, and the less than stellar state of manufacturing education.

As he points out, many training programs are held in old, dark buildings using outdated equipment.  Our technical schools definitely need updating, but we shouldn’t forget the good educational opportunities that already exist for young people.  Here in Pennsylvania, a number of vocational and technical high schools allow students to simultaneously get their high school diploma and practical training for technical fields.  Community colleges such as Lehigh Carbon Community College offer numerous technical training programs for students of any interest.  Though budget cuts and program reductions have taken their toll, many opportunities for training exist for youth interesting in a manufacturing career.

As much as anything, the problems may lie in perceptions.  Many people still see manufacturing jobs as dirty, dangerous, and for uneducated workers.  However, this is often not the case.  Jobs in manufacturing can provide young workers good compensation, a chance to be creative and solve problems, work as part of a team, and feel fulfilled in their work.  The first step in developing a bigger and more skilled manufacturing workforce is changing these perceptions.

Though there is clearly room for improvement, the state of technical education in America is promising.  However, in order to have the most competitive manufacturing sector we can, it is necessary to connect youth with manufacturing jobs by showing them the opportunities that exist in manufacturing and dispelling the negative stereotypes that surround those types of careers.


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