Construction Education

Help Wanted: Creative Thinkers and Problem-Solvers Needed

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Source: New Equipment Digest

Manufacturing Day, held the first Friday in October, is coming before you know it. Providing a good opportunity for those in the industry (and those on the outside looking in), Manufacturing Day is a time to pause and re-think some common misconceptions surrounding the industry. With the dramatic rate of change that has hit manufacturing in the last decade, some old truisms have turned to outright myths. Those misnomers can get in the way of manufacturing’s much-needed reinvention and recruitment efforts.

A major disconnect has evolved around the topic of education and the skills needed for manufacturing jobs. It’s an age-old rule that kids who take “shop classes” go into blue collar jobs. No matter what euphemisms modern educators use to label those classes, from technical education to applied sciences, everyone knows these are the classes for the students who are “hands on” learners and would rather re-build a Volkswagen transmission than dissect a Shakespeare sonnet. And, there’s nothing wrong with that.

In this age of digitalization, the pace of change in manufacturing is head-spinning. Neither educators nor manufacturers have kept up with documenting and actively recruiting the new skills and the type of experience an entry level hire in manufacturing should possess. Many simply may remember the good ol’ days: the golden era of manufacturing in the post-war years, when 30% of all U.S. jobs were in manufacturing. A strong back, the ability to follow directions, and a “show-up-everyday” attitude were the top requirements.

Those days included the ritual of entering an apprenticeship program at 18. Next was working up to earning a coveted white foreman’s hard hat. Then, you’d train the next crop of apprentices while you coasted to retirement with a hefty pension. Manufacturing was good for bread winners, their families, and communities.

While it lasted, anyway. In recent decades, the plight of communities where the local plant was virtually the only employer has been well-documented. When the plant flourishes, so does the town. When the plant closes, disaster. Detroit’s tragic decline from the fourth largest city in the United States to a bankrupt one with $18 billion in debt and a decaying infrastructure has become infamous.

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