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Putting the ‘Advanced’ in Manufacturing, Part 1 of 2

Posted on Mon, Oct 07, 2013

describe the imageWhat parents and students must know about today’s manufacturing jobs

By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO, ebm-papst Inc.

During the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s (CBIA) Connecticut Creates! Manufacturing Forum this past January, representatives of our state’s manufacturing community discussed their challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled people.

During the forum, Dave Tuttle, manufacturing department head at Platt Technical High School (part of Connecticut’s Technical High School System) shared a story that made the audience groan with frustration.

A young man that Dave taught had just obtained his advanced manufacturing certificate. He was on the verge of accepting a highly skilled, good-paying position. Before he could accept, however, his parents nixed the deal and forced him to continue his schooling at a four-year college.

What happened? Rather than envision their son’s productive (and profitable) career in a clean, modern facility that makes innovative products, they imagined him in a dead-end position hammering widgets on a dirty, hazardous and dimly lit shop floor.

Our young people want to make a difference. To be on the cutting edge. Their families want them to have secure jobs with growth potential in modern and stimulating work environments.

Here’s why today’s advanced manufacturing jobs offer both.

1. Manufacturing’s renaissance is gaining steam. According to this recent U.S. Treasury infographic, private investment in U.S. manufacturing is high, and the products we produce are increasing our exports.

2. Jobs anxiously await. According to a recent report from Deloitte, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain unfilled in the United States simply because employers cannot find people with the skills they need. Last year, Connecticut manufacturers had 22,000 openings for manufacturing jobs. Many went unfilled.

3. It’s no longer the factory your dad, mom (or grandparent) worked in. As Cisco’s recent blog points out, the business of making stuff no longer requires hard manual labor by many. With technology improvements, today’s manufacturing jobs do require intelligence, training and a willingness to continually push the efficiency envelope. In stark contrast to factories of the past, today’s production floors are bright, open, organized, clean and safe.

4. The pay’s better than the job you (might) find after a four-year degree. With manufacturing jobs going unfulfilled and office jobs scarce, surveys are revealing that increasingly, it’s the two-year technical degree that’s creating income and security.

CollegeMeasures.org recently found that students who receive an occupational and technical associate’s degree could earn $10,000 per year more than those with a non-occupational associate’s degree.

Reinforcing this new reality, more than half of Connecticut’s manufacturers are hiring graduates of Connecticut’s technical high schools, more students than from any other educational institutions, according to the 2011 Survey of Connecticut’s Manufacturing Workforce conducted by CBIA’s Education Foundation.

5. There are few obstacles to advancement. Factories of the past focused on repetitive, mindless assembly tasks. Today’s manufacturers understand that flexible, adaptive workers who demonstrate initiative on the floor and strive to learn new technology are critical to the company’s success, and reward them accordingly.

In next week’s post, I’ll explore how government, industry and education are working together to begin to address our manufacturing skills gap, nationally and in Connecticut.

Tags: Education, Bob Sobolewski, Manufacturing