Outdated stereotypes and misconceptions have kept many students from pursuing rewarding careers in this growing industry. Manufacturing Day is a national event that is typically celebrated on the first Friday of October, but any day can be Manufacturing Day!

To get some firsthand knowledge of both Manufacturing Day and the industry itself, STEM Jobs spoke with Katie Hager, Workforce Development Manager at DMI Companies.

STEM Jobs: Why is an event like Manufacturing Day important?

Katie: American manufacturing is facing a serious skills shortage due to many factors. Worldwide demand for manufactured goods has increased. Many US manufacturing operations have moved back to the United States and companies from other countries have increased manufacturing operations in the United States. This has created an increased demand for manufacturing workers. In addition, continuous advances in manufacturing technology, automation, and Lean manufacturing have changed the types of things these employees do every day and, therefore, changed the skills required to be successful in a manufacturing career. Many manufacturing jobs involve heavy use of technology, software, and skilled trades. People still tend to think of manufacturing as the boring, dirty, and dangerous jobs of many years ago. They also think it does not provide the wages and benefits that can support a good lifestyle. This causes many students and parents to dismiss the idea of a career in manufacturing. Lastly, the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation is progressively depleting the existing workforce. Due to all of these factors, there are expected to be about 2 million manufacturing jobs that will go unfilled in the next 10 years if we cannot show parents, students, and teachers that modern manufacturing is a wonderful career opportunity.

In reality, the average salary in manufacturing is 20% higher than the overall average salary. The US produces almost 20% of all global manufactured products, which makes it the world’s largest manufacturing economy and a very stable career choice. The technology and innovation behind modern manufacturing make it an extremely exciting field with much more diverse career offerings than in the past. Many high-demand manufacturing jobs do not require a four-year degree. This means that students can avoid the monstrous student loan debt of college and still get a good-paying job with a future where they are doing something they enjoy.

Manufacturing Day allows us to showcase the realities of modern manufacturing. Students, parents, and teachers get to see for themselves the technological, environmental, and lifestyle advances that have been made in our industry in the past few decades. They also get to see firsthand the variety of career opportunities available and what their future could hold if they choose a career in manufacturing.

SJ: What are the goals of Manufacturing Day from your perspective?

Katie: The goal of Manufacturing Day is to show students, parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators that modern manufacturing careers have changed drastically from the old days and are appealing to many different types of people. There are good-paying career opportunities for every STEM Type.

Each area of interest would entail a different career path. Exposing students to a variety of manufacturing career options while they are still in school gives them an edge. They are still in the position to make career and educational choices that will put them on the best path to the career they choose. Exposing teachers, counselors, and administrators to these career options helps them understand the skills needed to be successful in the various manufacturing career options so they can incorporate them, or continue to focus on them, in their curriculum. This also helps them advise students on career paths that might be most fulfilling for them based on their interests and aptitudes.

DMI’s Manufacturing Day will allow students to interact primarily with our production, engineering, maintenance, and management teams but we will also include other potential careers such as accounting, information technology, sales, customer service, procurement, and more. They will get to tour the plant, see the latest in manufacturing technology, and even use our state-of-the-art software to produce an item on our laser cutter. They will get to ask our employees what it is like to work at DMI, how did they get there, and any other questions they want to know about manufacturing. At the end of the day, we hope everyone leaves with a clear understanding of how great a career in manufacturing can be. Down the road, we hope these students end up becoming the future explorers, investigators, makers, integrators, designers, producers, solvers, and advisors of DMI Companies.

SJ:How can students get involved in Manufacturing Day?

Katie: There are lots of ways to get involved!
• Register for and attend an event.
• Talk to your parents, teachers, or counselors about finding or organizing an event
• When you go to an event, ask lots of questions, get information on work experience and training opportunities, and share your experience with your parents, teachers, and friends.

SJ: What are some common misconceptions about manufacturing? What are the realities?

• Manufacturing is no longer the dirty, dangerous, unstable, and boring work that people recall from the past
• Technology and employers’ desire to create a better workplace experience has resulted in much cleaner and safer environments
• Global expansion, reshoring, and economic improvements have secured manufacturing’s future. Manufacturing workers have the highest job tenure in the private sector.
• The use of automation, 3-D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, robotics, a multitude of different types of software, and many more advancements have made manufacturing careers exciting and revolutionary
• The annual average salary of manufacturing workers is more than $77,000
• 90% of manufacturing workers have medical benefits

SJ: What do you see as the future of manufacturing?

Katie: The future of manufacturing is limitless on many fronts. Our research and development teams, like most, are continuously designing new and improved products and manufacturing processes to enhance people’s quality of life and reduce our impact on the environment. This constant stream of new technology enables us to do more and be better. It also creates the need for continuous learning and skills enhancement. The focus moving forward is on skills-based training with many avenues to achieving your dream job and multiple on and off ramps at various points along the way. Students can graduate from many high schools now with the skills needed to earn a very healthy wage. They can add to their skills, while earning money, at companies like DMI or by attending community college or trade school which only increases their potential. The more they learn, the more they contribute to the advancements in the industry which makes it a sustainable cycle of success.

It’s time to rethink everything you thought you knew about manufacturing. Take a look at what TRADE SCHOOLS have to offer.