It’s not easy for manufacturing to attract the younger, skilled workers that it needs. We need to focus on both the educational pipeline and public perceptions.
For much of the past 30 years, the American public’s view of manufacturing has been unrelentingly grim: shuttered factories, laid-off workers and the steady disappearance of “Made in America” products from consumers’ shelves.
But U.S. manufacturing is showing strong signs of rebirth. Since the end of 2010, U.S. manufacturers have added more than 730,000 jobs, and industry analysts predict that the sector could see as many as three million new job openings over the next 10 years.
Now, however, American manufacturers are dealing with another kind of bad news: Even as industry’s prospects have recovered, its image has not. Americans still think of factory jobs as dirty, dangerous and offering little job security.
As a result, millions of young Americans are potentially snubbing a promising career path in an industry poised for a renaissance. Absent a dramatic and rapid makeover of not only public perceptions but also the educational pipeline that manufacturers depend on, the sector’s looming worker shortage is severe enough to short-circuit both its own rebound and its contributions to overall growth.
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