People may have a much higher opinion of manufacturing jobs than previously thought.
I received the second annual "Public Viewpoint on Manufacturing" survey from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute in my e-mail inbox last week, and the results were enlightening. In a survey of 1,055 Americans, 63 percent of respondents strongly agree or agree that manufacturing can be viewed as "high-tech" and that well-educated, highly skilled workers are needed to do the job.
Could the message finally be reaching the masses? Read enough stories about the evolution of the manufacturing shop floor from a dark and dank place to an environment marked by bright lighting and a comfortable work space, and maybe the image starts to stick. Also, the fact that job applicants may be routinely turned away from manufacturing jobs because they lack the needed skills could also be reinforcing the point that manufacturing jobs require a higher level of skill than simply pushing a button.
Even with this improved image in the minds of most Americans, only 30 percent of survey respondents said they would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. The survey suggested the reason for this was that 55 percent of those surveyed think the long-term outlook for U.S. manufacturing is weaker than today. Among the biggest obstacles cited by respondents were policies relating to business, tax rates on individuals, and government leadership.
Government certainly doesn't do much to help, but that probably isn't the only problem keeping parents from encouraging their sons and daughters to pursue manufacturing careers. If indeed people believe that today's manufacturing jobs require more education, they may be intimidated by the fact that with more schooling comes more homework and more tuition bills; that can be a scary proposition for a family that doesn't have many college graduates. The wages in manufacturing still are lower when compared to fields such as construction and maintenance and repair, so that's always a factor.
Also, let's not forget that people in general are fearful about the future. With unemployment hovering around 10 percent for the foreseeable future, people without jobs are desperate to find one, and people with jobs feel like they need to hold onto them for dear life.
Actually, for now, it's best to focus on what appears to be the improved image of manufacturing. That's a battle that companies and associations have been fighting for years, and the efforts appear to have worked. That's no small victory.
As the image of manufacturing continues to improve, perhaps Americans' confidence in manufacturing as a career choice for their children will increase as well. I mean parents have to realize that all of their children can't be doctors and professional athletes, right? I think I'm afraid to answer that question.