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As we stand in 2014, this trend has continued and accelerated to the point that, if the United States manufacturing sector stood on its own, it would represent the 8th largest economy in the world today, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
The national day of manufacturing in the United States is October 3rd, and while one can find countless companies across the country hard at work inside their facilities each and every day of the year, this day signifies a need as well as a chance for manufacturers of all kinds, and the general public by extension, to get together and raise awareness about the overall nature and benefits of modern manufacturing in today’s fast-paced world.
MFG DAY is an organization that has taken charge in facilitating this kind of engagement and since 2012, has driven awareness of the impact that manufacturing has on the United States’ economic success, as well as the advantages of undertaking a career in such. Because the fact of the matter is, there currently are many misconceptions held by the public, particularly those of the younger generations, about the general makeup of modern manufacturing, and just how far its influence reaches in sustaining and progressing the way global markets ebb and flow.
“At MFG DAY, we address the many misunderstandings about manufacturing by giving manufacturers across the country an opportunity to open their doors and show just exactly what today’s manufacturing is, and what it isn’t,” says Ed Youdell, CEO of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, one of the main drivers behind MFG DAY since its inception. “For every dollar invested into a manufacturing plant or facility, $1.32 is put back into the community,” he says, adding, “So MFG DAY is really a grassroots movement where manufacturers can engage their surrounding communities in whichever way they feel best, so as to further educate them on the kinds of positive impacts that manufacturing can bring to a town or city and its residents.”
As the event enters its third year, its popularity and engagement has grown in an exponential manner. “In 2012, we had 240 registered events and an estimated audience total of 15,000 at these events,” he says, adding, “last year we had 834 events and attendance was in the 35,000-40,000 range.” This year, although registration is still wide open, Youdell says he expects there to be upwards of 1,500 events across the country, bringing in an audience of nearly 50,000. “It’s grown quickly, because the beauty of Manufacturing Day is that anyone can host their own event, and in any manner that they see fit.”
The event holds personal meaning for Youdell, whose father spent much of his career as a successful tool and die maker for General Motors in Detroit, Mich. “I have seen, firsthand, what a career in manufacturing can provide not only for a family, but an entire community,” he says, but adds, “However, as we approach the end of 2014, as the older generations, specifically the Baby Boomers, begin to retire and leave their posts, there is a shrinking number of skilled, younger workers ready to step in and fill their open positions.” Youdell says that the MFG DAY 2014 campaign is primarily targeting this younger generation as the focus of its outreach, because while manufacturing in the U.S. continues to speed along, bolstered by a potential oil and gas boom as well as a recent shift in re-shoring jobs, a very real shortage of skilled labor in the future could threaten growth and progress.
As a result, the organization has been hosting a video contest, which kicked off on July 28th and will announce winners on September 5th. Finalists will have their videos featured on mfgday.com through the celebration on October 3rd. Designed to capture the enthusiasm that Manufacturing Day hosts have for manufacturing, the contest is focused on engaging manufacturers of all ages, but particularly the younger ones, by encouraging individuals and companies to produce their own videos that shows what makes manufacturing so special, either specific to their company, or in general. Five regional winners will be selected, with one national winner taking top honors. All five original winners will receive a $500-value prize pack and a complimentary public showing license for American Made Movie, the official Movie Partner of Manufacturing Day. Each of the 834 companies and organizations that participated in Manufacturing Day 2013 are eligible to enter, as are organizations that plan to host Manufacturing Day events this year.
“When the younger generation thinks about manufacturing, we’ve found that a lot of them believe manufacturing to be characterized by working in dark, dirty factories where you just push a button all day long, when in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he says, adding, “Modern manufacturing is defined by innovation, and when you marry that with the fast growing uses of advanced technology, like laser cutting or 3D printing, you realize that it’s more in tune with the stuff you see in Sci-Fi movies than anything else.”
And yet, for many manufacturers, it’s a career that began with the grandfather, was continued on by the father, but has been lost on the son. “When you look at factors like capital equipment investments, where companies are putting forward millions of dollars into brand new, state-of-the-art systems, you need someone who is highly skilled and qualified in order to operate them effectively,” he says, adding, “with the younger generation, there is this gap in skill due to a lack of interest, and it’s our mission to reverse that course so they can see the real advantages to a career in manufacturing.”
“More than 12 million Americans work directly in manufacturing according to the BLS with one in six jobs in the private sector tied to it. Youdell says that it’s important that businesses continue to attract a domestic workforce because it fosters a ‘Win-Win’ scenario for both the economy and the individual. “If you look at the average age in manufacturing, it’s near the mid 50’s, and with the fact that 77 percent of these people are going to be retiring by 2030, there’s a gap that needs to be filled, and MFG DAY as an organization is designed to amplify this need so that manufacturers can work together to tackle not only this issue but many others as well.”
MFG DAY is run by seven co-producers who work together each year to drive awareness about Manufacturing Day and the state of North American manufacturing in general. In addition to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, the organization is run by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), the Manufacturing Institute, Industrial Strength Marketing (ISM), American Made Movie, which is the official movie partner and Science Channel, which Youdell says is the official media partner. “We have all worked together to continue to encourage a broader attention to modern manufacturing across a multitude of channels, including the fact that Science Channel will be running a full week marathon of How It’s Made leading up to Manufacturing Day, to encourage people to sit down and really see the value of it all.”
And the value is there, but it’s up to manufacturers to help the younger populations see it.
Manufacturing Day is October 3rd, 2014. To register to host or attend an event, or for more information on MFG DAY as an organization, visit http://www.mfgday.com/.