By now we’ve all heard about the cheating and fraud that wealthy parents, college coaches and others have engaged in to get kids into prestigious universities through the “side door.” Those of us in the manufacturing industry are puzzled by this obsession parents have of getting their kids into a four-year college, literally, at any cost.
We know the number of good jobs out there that go wanting for lack of skilled workers. It’s a situation that only gets worse with each passing day as some 10,000 baby boomer workers retire. The industry needs not only people with skills but with a “work” mentality—the drive and ambition to learn from those who’ve been in the industry for decades and are willing to pass along their knowledge to the new kids on the block.
Recently, TV star and manufacturing cheerleader Mike Rowe blew off some steam in a Washington Post interview about this shameful situation: “We’re lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to educate them for jobs that don’t exist anymore, and that’s crazy.”
If we’re outraged at the fraud being committed to get kids into prestigious universities, Rowe says we should be more outraged at the cost of these four-year degrees. He blames not just parents but “teachers and guidance counselors, who pressure kids to apply for college, regardless of cost,” selling the belief that “only a four-year degree can buy happiness.”
I would add that most of these parents, teachers and guidance counselors push kids into college because they believe it’s the only way they can make good money and live the American dream. This belief stems from a perception problem that manufacturing is a dirty, low-paying dead-end street.
Rowe said that he’s not anti-college—he just believes the “path for most people is not the most expensive path.” I have to agree.
Do you want to know who makes really good money? Call a plumber to come and clean out your bathroom sink drain—$240 for the service call and 15 minutes of work. Call an electrician and see how much that will set you back.
There’s been a shortage of welders for nearly two decades. I used to freelance for a welding publication 15 years ago, when manufacturing figured it was some 200,000 welders short. Manufacturers were begging for welders, in spite of all the robotic welding that was being implemented.
In an article on Manufacturing.net, “Technology Is the Key to Bringing Millennials into Manufacturing,” Tyler Whitaker, CTO and COO of Leading2Lean, wrote that “the rise of technology in our industry has been vital in keeping us competitive and [is] essential for sustaining the industry in the future.” He notes that in today’s factories “gamification is taking the industry by storm, with systems designed to align with the natural motivations that people have to make a difference and be recognized in how they drive plant-floor performance.”
In a survey Whitaker commissioned to explore demographically how people feel about manufacturing jobs, the results were telling. Eighty-six percent of both baby boomers and Gen Xers agreed that manufacturing jobs are important to the U.S. economy. However, only 68% of millennials, the generation we need most to replace retiring baby boomers, agreed that manufacturing is critical to our economy. Many of them were not even aware that there is a shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing.