By Mark Cohen
On March 4, dozens of local eighth-grade students will gather at Penn State Great Valley to share two-minute videos they’ve created with the help of local companies that demonstrate What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?
Manufacturing – cool? Yes! Unfortunately, the manufacturing industry’s outdated reputation precedes it. When most people think about manufacturing, low-skill, low-pay jobs and repetitive tasks on monotonous assembly lines come to mind. These perceptions have colored the perceptions not only of students but of their parents. According to the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, only 3 in 10 parents would consider encouraging their child toward a manufacturing career. Parents’ thinking is that you go into the “trades” if you are not “college material.” And parents want their kids to be “college bound.”
But, what is the reality about jobs in manufacturing?
The reality is that most modern manufacturing jobs offer a range of opportunities including good salaries and benefits; interesting, fulfilling jobs; flexible schedules; and clean, comfortable working environments. The truth is that robotics now handle many repetitive tasks, and current manufacturing jobs are more focused on planning and creative problem-solving.
Today, manufacturing finds itself in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. Today’s transformative manufacturing technologies include artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and cognitive automation, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
As technology replaces many of the manual or repetitive tasks many manufacturing jobs entail, it frees up space for skills that are uniquely human: critical thinking, creative problem-solving, people management – and the digital skills to use today’s technologies. Many manufacturers are able to run much of their plant off an iPad or smart phone. And, tools such as collaboration platforms, work-based social media, and instant messaging are increasingly supporting the communication necessary for higher productivity.
More good news for today’s aspiring manufacturing worker: the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs is increasing. Across the United States, 22 percent of skilled manufacturing workers, roughly 2.7 million employees, will retire in the next ten years due to economic expansion and Baby Boomer retirements. With fewer workers being added, there will be a lack of incoming replacements, and the industry could be up to 2 million workers short of its needs in the coming years.
And the pay? Manufacturing wages rose 60 percent between 1996 and 2016 and did not decline year-over-year during that time.
Manufacturing jobs continue to provide above-average wages, especially for skilled positions that require on-the-job training but not college degrees. With wages on the rise, satisfying work environments and job openings in a variety of fields, it’s clear why manufacturing offers a promising future.
What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? attendees at this year’s 2020 Student Video Contest on March 4 will find out what’s so cool about manufacturing.
What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? is an initiative of the Chester County Economic Development Council’s Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties. The program is sponsored by the Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties, Chester County Economic Development Council, Chester County Workforce Development Board, CCRES Educational and Behavioral Health Services, Infiana, Kreischer Miller, Pennsylvania Machine Works, ifm prover, Neilsen-Kellerman, New Way Air Bearings, and Malvern Bank, National Association.
Click here if you are a parent, student, teacher, or employer looking for more information on What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?
Mark Cohen, the Marketing Chair of the Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties, has been a Senior Vice President for five years at Malvern Bank, National Association. The bank is headquartered in Paoli and focuses on providing quality lending, deposit, and wealth management services to the community for 133 years. Click here for more information.