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Remember back when we baby boomers were in high school and there were classes in shop and VoAg (vocational agriculture)? Over the past few decades, we've seen an almost complete elimination of those hands-on type classes in our high schools, as the push to send everyone to college has become the norm.

Clare Goldsberry

February 26, 2015

3 Min Read
"Cheers" star and manufacturing supporter John Ratzenberger donates $1 million to bring shop classes to Georgia schools

Remember back when we baby boomers were in high school and there were classes in shop and VoAg (vocational agriculture)? Over the past few decades, we've seen an almost complete elimination of those hands-on type classes in our high schools, as the push to send everyone to college has become the norm.

That's about to change for students in Georgia. Actor and manufacturing supporter John Ratzenberger is donating $1 million on behalf of the Foundation for America, which he chairs, to bring back shop classes into schools to teach students how to work with their hands and learn a trade. The former Cheers actor whose voice also has graced many Pixar movies made a guest appearance on Wednesday's Fox & Friends to announce the new program in Georgia.

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Fox co-host Steve Doocy asked Ratzenberger why manufacturing in the United States has declined. Ratzenberger explained that school systems removed industrial arts classes from their curriculum, "canceling shop courses, not thinking that they were necessary. And people forgot that's what brought us to the dance," Ratzenberger said. "I mean, we're a nation of self-reliant, self-sufficient people . . . we were. And that's what I'm doing down here in Atlanta. I'm going to be presenting the governor with a million dollar check from my foundation today to start the national education initiative. Hopefully we can turn it around and spread it to other states."

Ratzenberger stated that, "tradespeople should be given the same amount of respect as doctors or scholars." He promotes the German model: "Whether you take shop classes or go into academics, you're given the same amount of dignity and respect. Whether you're a brain surgeon or a plumber doesn't make any difference. And that's crucial," said Ratzenberger.

Ratzenberger added that it is important for people to learn a skill "that nobody can take away from you," that empowers a person to earn a living anywhere on the planet. The actor's non-profit Foundation for America believes that economic freedom and innovation is possible by investing in America's people by providing educational resources.

The Foundation for America is dedicated to educating the public and policymakers on the growing decline of skilled labor in the United States. Ratzenberger also informs the public about the crisis of American manufacturing's lack of skilled workers to replace retiring baby boomers through the Center for America, also a nonprofit organization that brings people face-to-face with issues that affect the future quality of life, economic prosperity and freedom in America.

In an essay for Center for America, Ratzenberger wrote, "While producing the 97 episodes of Made in America for the Travel Channel, I learned from dozens of factory owners that the upcoming retirement of millions of skilled workers threatens the collapse of our manufacturing economy. Why? Because there are too few young people being trained with real-world skills to take their places."

We need dozens more John Ratzenbergers to stand up and promote American manufacturing as a crucial component of our economy. It was American manufacturing that built the middle class and created the strong economic foundation that has made this country great.

If every mold manufacturer or processor would adopt one of the schools near its facility, provide education about manufacturing, show these young people the great (and high-paying) jobs they can get in the moldmaking and molding industries, there would be more young people ready to step into the shoes of the baby boomers who are leaving the workforce.

Take some time and get to know these next-generation moldmakers, machinists, process technicians, quality control techs, and mold designers by letting them know of the great opportunities that exist in our industry. If there's a shortage of skilled workers, it's probably the fault of the industry itself. Let's work to change that.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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