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Manufacturers Need to Help Develop the Next Generation of Employees

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

Many manufacturers are concerned about the next generation of manufacturing workers. What if we have a manufacturing renaissance and nobody comes? The issues of relevant education, workforce preparedness, and  employee demographics have been some of the topics discussed at every gathering of manufacturers in the last decade. We can’t blame the education system completely. They may be on the wrong path in the eyes of manufacturers, but a question remains. What have manufacturers done to change the situation? Besides a lot of complaining, I think the answer is, not much. You need to get involved with the education process or there will be no change, or change not necessarily in your favor. So, what can you do? There are a number of opportunities if you just put in some time and dedication.

The first is to go visit your local schools, talk to the teachers and administrators, visit a class, invite teachers and students to visit your facility. We know from experience that educators know very little about manufacturing. They think it’s a dead end. Once they have a better understanding of what you do and the needs and opportunities available in manufacturing, they begin to realize that the headlines are not all true. The oohs and aahs you get from students seeing a manufacturing plant in operation are cherished responses. They had no idea how or what was happening in your factory.

Once past the introduction to manufacturing, we’ve found that working with educators to identify programs and courses to better prepare students for careers in manufacturing is a positive exercise. Although the wheels of education turn slower than those of industry, change is possible. Being a curriculum adviser to a program at your local high school or Career and Technical Education center is a rewarding experience and helps build trust and understanding between the business and educational communities.

Next, you need to make a commitment to educating the next generation. Internships, job shadowing, and apprenticeships are all appropriate methods for engaging with students. Even a small company, such as Graphicast, can have an impact. We have a college student from Keene State College doing an internship for us. She’s in their Industrial Safety and Environmental program and is helping us comply with the newest safety standards. We also have a high school student doing a job shadowing program. He comes in two afternoons per week to learn about manufacturing. His expressed interest in engineering is getting a real world test, and he’ll know much more about what he wants to do and where he wants to go to college after his time with us.

There are many other areas of advocacy where we can help improve the perception of manufacturing. Developing relationships with local colleges and universities, getting to know your legislators, and testifying on behalf of manufacturing related legislation are several areas of value. As manufacturers, we are faced with many daily challenges that we overcome to advance our companies. The educational and training issue is just another challenge we need to address if we are to prosper in the future.

Manufacturing Jobs Still Pack the Biggest Punch for Economic Growth

  • “Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

    An interesting relationship exists between manufacturing jobs and service jobs. The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy issued a report on the impact of Smart Manufacturing and High Technology on New Hampshire’s economy in March 2011. Besides the fact that Manufacturing and High Tech are the largest portion of the state’s economy (at 19%), more manufacturing jobs equates to more services jobs. In referencing economic scenario models done by Fairpoint Communications, the Public Policy Center reported that every 100 manufacturing jobs created 138 indirect and induced jobs in other sectors, creating a total of $16.5 million in personal income. By contrast, 100 health care jobs created 55 indirect and induced jobs, creating $7.3 million in personal income. Further down on the list, 100 tourism jobs only created 32 indirect and induced jobs, for a total personal income impact of $4.4 million. More manufacturing creates a wealthier economy for all. We need more skilled workers to grow the manufacturing economy!

A Good Morning at the Manufacturing Leadership Summit 2010

The highlight of the morning at the Manufacturing Leadership Summit was a review of what the National Asociation of Manufacturers is doing to boost the visibility of the manufacturing sector around the country, especially on Capitol Hill. John Engler, president of NAM and former three term governor of Michigan, presented a rational overview of areas of tax policy, education, and industrial policy that are needed to secure manufacturing as a key foundation of our economy. With all the talk of the decline of manufacturing in the US, it is important to realize that the US share of global manufacturing output is 21%, while China’s share is 12%. That may be hard for some to realize, but it just underscores the need for stable manufacturing policy in government and a serious effort from education to keep the supply of a highly qualified workforce at the forefront of their efforts.

New Hampshire’s Manchester School of Technology on CNN April 15, 2010

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

This must be the week for good news about education. Besides my always uplifting experience speaking with Dartmouth graduate students, I heard today that the Manchester (NH) School of Technology will be featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 11:30 PM. According to MST principal Karen White, ” It is about how the state of NH has done better than other states in the country on dropout prevention and we were chosen by the Dept of Ed to showcase our efforts. One of the highlights is that technical education is what is attracting students and keeping them in”.

I’ve been working with MST as part of a advisory group that has helped them institute a manufacturing technology program for their students. This is a comprehensive program that provides hands-on education in all aspects of technologies involved in manufacturing.  The program features a well equipped training area and an experienced teacher focused on this curriculum. Part of the training includes introductions to lean manufacturing, statistical techniques, and the many people skills required for a successful career. Students come out of the program ready to go to work, or to enter a more in-depth continuation of the training at Manchester Community College. Either way, manufacturers are getting new workers ready for successful careers in industry.

Maybe There is a Future for Manufacturing

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

We’ve had a busy two weeks of visitors at Graphicast. Not from customers or potential customers, but from students. A class from our local high school is learning about career opportunities, soft and hard skills required for success in the workplace, and taking part in internships to gain some experience. I first visited their classroom to talk about all the different skills that are required to run a manufacturing company. The next day, they came by for their plant tour. This was the first chance for most of them to see an operating factory. They had no idea what was taking place within a few blocks of their school. As one student said, “This was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be”.

The second group was from a college industrial design class. This was the sixth or seventh year that this class has toured our plant. We’re part of the materials and manufacturing processes section of their training. and I’m always pleased to see so many students going into this area.
With all the negative news about manufacturing, much of it misleading or exaggerated, we manufacturers need to take every opportunity we have to bring community and educational groups into our operations and let them  know about the many positive things manufacturing still represents in this country.

Cast Metals Education

GaryAn enjoyable benefit to exhibiting at a trade show is talking to engineering and trade school students who are allowed to attend. For the most part, they are courteous and wait until there is a lull in booth activity before approaching to learn more about your specific casting process. These young men and women are not only our future for manufacturing, but future customer’s as well! One such school is Trine University in Indianna. Check them out at www.trine.edu . As they say, great education also depends upon excellent educators and teaching tools. Perhaps your organization, in some way, can support these fine institutions.


Taking Innovative Casting Technology to Your Bottom Line™

Graphicast Inc.

PO Box 430 36 Knight Street,
Jaffrey, NH 03452
phone: 603-532-4481
fax: 603-532-4261