A look at the industry as we celebrate Manufacturing Day

Barb ClearyPerceptions abound, when it comes to manufacturing jobs in this country. But to give a shout-out to the industry on Manufacturing Day, it may be time to look at data that represents the reality in the world of manufacturing—including a serious skills gap that means many jobs go unfilled.

Here are some facts to consider, for a start:

The average salary of manufacturing workers is:

a) $55,000
b) $65.000
c) $77,000
d) $82,000

The highest paid new college graduates are:

a) Pharmacy majors
b) Pre-medicine majors
c) Physics majors
d) Manufacturing engineering majors

In manufacturing industries, the percentage of workers who can expect medical benefits in their jobs is:

a) 90 percent
b) 75 percent
c) 50 percent
d) 35 percent

The percentage of manufacturing workers who get retirement benefits from employers is:

a) 90 percent
b) 78 percent
c) 55 percent
d) 25 percent

If you answered C, D, A, and B, you must be an insider—or at least know the industry better than most.

Not only misperceptions, but apparent contractions also characterize the industry. For example, although manufacturing is filled with high-paying jobs, people aren’t joining the field. Only 17 percent view manufacturing as a top career choice.  And while most Americans (70%) say that manufacturing is the most important industry for a strong economy and national defense, only 30% of parents encourage their kids to enter the field of manufacturing. Further, Americans tend to fear the loss of domestic manufacturing to offshore workers, but the National Association of Manufacturers report that 67 percent of manufacturers face a “moderate to severe shortage” of qualified worker.

As we celebrate Manufacturing Day this week, it may be time to reflect on the skills gap represented by the number of jobs that can’t be filled, and to consider the ways that our education system can address  the problem by preparing students with technical skills that suit them to the jobs that are calling to them in the 21st century.