Volume 20 | Issue 4 | Year 2017

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Mark your calendars, this year’s Manufacturing Day℠ is October 6. Of course, not many of us still physically write marks on paper calendars—we post a note and synch our phones. Old expressions die hard, as do old perceptions. Such as that manufacturing is dirty, repetitive work that requires few skills and little in the way of rewarding career growth. Thousands of Manufacturing Day events held throughout North America aim to dispel this highly inaccurate notion and inspire students, teachers, parents, job seekers and other local community members at open houses that showcase modern manufacturing technology and careers. And if you’re a manufacturer interested in participating, there’s still time to register to host an event.

“We’re not living in 1970 anymore,” says Manufacturing Day founder Ed Youdell, president and CEO of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International® (FMA). “Today’s modern manufacturing workplace employs sophisticated technology that requires highly skilled workers. In fact, we’re using the very same kind of devices—mobile phones, iPads, laptops—that students use every day in their personal and educational lives. One thing we hope to show during Manufacturing Day is how familiar much of what we do already is to them.”

A related misperception is that this technology eliminates jobs. “It’s true that automation has eliminated a lot of manual labor. But it’s equally true that automation creates jobs,” Youdell emphasizes. “You need people to design and run the technology, to address a range of continually evolving engineering and implementation challenges. It’s these sort of challenges that makes our industry particularly exciting and a rewarding career choice.”

In addition, Manufacturing Day strives to overcome a considerable gender gap—according to a Deloitte study, only 29 percent of manufacturing employees are women, despite the fact that women make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce While more women are being appointed to manufacturing leadership positions, Youdell notes that, “Attracting talent is a big issue in the industry right now, particularly now that the baby boom generation is beginning to retire. One important way to address that is to attract more women to our industry. This comes back to changing the perception of manufacturing as a dull and hazardous place to work, when in fact we offer gratifying career paths for creative people the same as in any high-tech business.”

Manufacturing Day is a national array of simultaneous events coordinated by FMA, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Manufacturing Institute (MI), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The national media partners for the event are the Science Channel and Edge Factor, and the national movie partner is American Made Movie.

However, local Manufacturing Day participants aren’t required to adhere to a mandatory template. In fact, there is no requirement beyond that the event expose more people to present-day manufacturing and showcase the many positive aspects of working in the industry, as well as how manufacturing contributes to the community and the economy. That said, the most common kind of events are plant tours, job and educational fairs, community events organized in partnership with other businesses and economic development groups, and breakfast, lunch or dinner celebrations with roundtable discussions involving community and business leaders.

Registered events are publically listed on the MFG Day website, though a manufacturer can opt for “invitation-only” status. And while the official day is on October 6, registered event hosts can make any day a Manufacturing Day. The advantage to registering is access to free event planning and toolkits to help ensure successful and easy execution.

Manufacturing Day has grown over 1,000 percent since its inception five years ago. “In 2012 we had 240 participants; last year we had 2800,” Youdell notes. Exact numbers for 2017 are uncertain as registration remains open and new participants sign up daily. (As an added incentive, all Manufacturing Day hosts that register on or before September 17 are automatically entered into a drawing for free audio tour headset rental packages to help facility plant tours.)

Statistical analysis of key event reporting indicated Manufacturing Day 2016 drew an audience of 596,341, which included some 267,607 students. In a Deloitte administered study of 2016 student attendees, 89 percent said they were more aware of manufacturing jobs in their communities and, 84 percent were persuaded that manufacturing provides interesting and rewarding careers. Seventy one percent were likely to tell others about manufacturing after attending an event, and 64 percent were more motivated to pursue manufacturing careers.

“Every year we get better results,” Youdell says. “So if a manufacturer is wondering whether the effort that goes into hosting an event actually pays off, the short answer is yes, and the data we’ve collected bears that out.”

He adds, however, that Manufacturing Day alone is just one step toward filling an anticipated 3.5 million U.S. skilled manufacturing jobs expected between now and 2025, according to a joint Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute study. According to a study commissioned by the Manufacturing Institute, some two million manufacturing jobs will go unfulfilled if more current students don’t pursue a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)-based field of study required for a career in manufacturing.

“As Manufacturing Day continues to grow, that will certainly help us attract talent to high paying careers. But it requires an ongoing commitment beyond a single day or series of event. We need to proactively work with communities and schools ongoing to spread the message of the many positive benefits manufacturing has for employees and the local economy. We need to work with technical colleges to establish programs to develop a future workforce required for modern manufacturing. And we need to work with four-year colleges and universities to attract engineering and management talent.”

“We’re always thrilled to hear about how different organizations celebrate Manufacturing Day—everyone does it a little differently—and their successful results,” Youdell says. “We look forward to this year’s Manufacturing Day, as well as all the events on whatever day they may be held, that collectively tell our story about the true diversity and excitement offered by today’s manufacturing to inspire a new generation to work with us in challenging and rewarding careers.”

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