The Fifth Annual “Manufacturing Day” Is Changing Perceptions about the Industry

The event was created five years ago to increase public awareness about opportunities in the sector and to combat the negative perceptions about manufacturing careers being dirty with limited room for growth. Surveys of companies and participants indicate this type of outreach is crucial as misconceptions about the industry, as it becomes increasingly more automated and digitized, can deter job interest. More than three-quarters of executives responding to Deloitte’s Skills Gap survey believe that the gap will impact their ability to meet customer demand, implement new technologies and increase productivity.

Participation has been growing every year and The Manufacturing Institute reports that, to date, 2,600 live events have been held with more than 225,000 students and 55,000 parents.

The Manufacturing Institute worked with Deloitte on a perception survey last year and found dramatic results around changing perceptions. After attending events on Manufacturing Day, 81% of students and 93% of educators said they were more convinced that manufacturing offers careers that are both interesting and rewarding. Also, 71% of students and 90% of educators said they were more likely to encourage others to pursue a career in manufacturing.

“It is powerful to see that our collective efforts are making a difference in educating the public about manufacturing and its rewarding careers, and how manufacturers are connecting with the next-generation workforce.”

Michelle Drew Rodriguez, manufacturing leader at the Center for Industry Insights at Deloitte, said that the findings overwhelmingly reinforced the value of Manufacturing Day and such outreach efforts. “For those truly exposed to modern day manufacturing, perceptions do change and, based on that, we will move the needle to better fill the skills gap that challenges so many companies today,” said Rodriguez.

Recruiters and companies overcoming the labor challenges have said that engagement with communities, students and schools has been beneficial. The Public Perception of Manufacturing research by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte found that while one-third of respondents believe manufacturing jobs are available and accessible, only half believe these jobs are interesting and rewarding. Just one out of three parents said they would encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing, with more than half saying they were worried about job security and believing the industry has limited career prospects. Yet, as the Deloitte survey indicated, education and demonstration events can quickly change perceptions.

“It is powerful to see that our collective efforts are making a difference in educating the public about manufacturing and its rewarding careers, and how manufacturers are connecting with the next-generation workforce,” said Carroll Thomas, director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Companies that have been engaging students and the public with factory tours and outreach say their efforts are paying off. Other events, such as the Make It & Move It conference held by the East Bay Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, have also helped change the perception that manufacturing is a dark and dirty career. “Young people come into our facility and say ‘wow, it’s so clean,’ and they’re surprised,” Pamela Kan, president of Pittsburg-based Bishop Wisecarver Group, told the East Bay Times.

Craig Guillot :Craig Guillot is a business writer based in New Orleans, La. His work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com and CNBC.com. You can read more about his work at www.craigdguillot.com.