Celebrities help draw attention to skilled worker shortage

The data is there; and now the issue gets backfrom from people like Jay Leno and John Ratzenberger

01/29/2009


There is a burgeoning movement to motivate students in America to consider careers in the unlikeliest of places %%MDASSML%% the factory floor.

Even in the face of job cuts amid the current economic turbulence, U.S. manufacturers have great concern about the growing shortage of young skilled labor needed to make products used in industries ranging from aerospace and medical devices to alternative energy and infrastructure improvements, according to industry experts.

Those heralding the cause include leading trade associations, regional economic development groups, TV personalities such as Jay Leno and John Ratzenberger, and even a teenage race car driver.

“Although there have been significant job losses in certain industries and regions, many areas of the country are clamoring for skilled employees,” said Mark Tomlinson, executive director and general manager for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. “In Texas, the oil and gas industry has created a thriving manufacturing community. Parts of the Southeast have seen tremendous growth in several segments.”

A recent poll conducted by sponsors of the FABTECH International & AWS Welding Show revealed executives cited the lack of employee skills as a leading obstacle to growth.

“That supports what we’ve heard for a couple of years from leaders in the metal forming, fabricating and welding industries. They report their biggest challenge today is finding skilled workers, especially young people, who have the knowledge to handle the increasingly sophisticated tasks required in manufacturing,” said Jerry Shankel, president and CEO of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA). “For example, we are using laser light to cut metal now, and it requires a person proficient in math and science skills.”

The outreach to students and educators is taking two parallel tracks in response to the challenge. One dispels the negative image many have of factories as dark, dingy and dangerous, and such work as unfulfilling. The second highlights the chance to use fun, high-tech, computer skills and the opportunity to secure a career that pays well and offers advancement.

“Part of the problem is the media and Hollywood, who often portray manufacturing in a poor light, denigrating anyone who works with their hands,” said actor John Ratzenberger, star of the comedy “ Cheers ,” host of the factory-focused Travel Channel show “ John Ratzenberger’s Made in America ” and founder of the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Foundation (NBT) that encourages young people to consider careers in manufacturing.

“The manufacturing community must do a better job informing children that working in a factory is rewarding both personally and financially,” said Ratzenbeger. “It all starts with getting young people to take pride in tinkering and inspiring them to work with both their hands and their minds.”

Many agree with Ratzenberger. “The image of manufacturing is still very much misunderstood; people, particularly young people, believe that we have the manufacturing plants of the 1950s and ’60s,” Dr. G. Edward Hughes, president and CEO of Gateway Community and Technical College in Edgewood, Ky., recently said in a Cincinnati newspaper interview.

A report from the U.S. Department of Labor also noted, “Popular perceptions of manufacturing jobs as dark, dangerous and dirty are largely outdated as advanced robotics and other‘intelligent’ systems become pervasive throughout the manufacturing process.”

Combating this image and shining a spotlight on the career opportunities in manufacturing now represent missions of more and more organizations, whether these are grassroots or national efforts.

%%POINT%%who restore his prized autos.

%%POINT%%

%%POINT%%ps give the kids a tangible experience to make something they can be proud of and take home,” said Ratzenberger. “I can think of no enterprise more worthy than one devoted to inspiring the next generation of engineers, builders and manufacturers.”

%%POINT%%on to their students.

%%POINT%%e, and a “Be True to Your School” program tied to FMA magazine Practical Welding today that has Palmiter visiting schools accompanied by his race car, to talk about welding, racing and manufacturing. “It’s important that people my age realize there are opportunities inthe manufacturing field for them to pursue,” Palmiter said.  

“If parents and teachers don’t have personal experience in today’s manufacturing, they can’t guide their children with accurate opinions and information about manufacturing careers,” said Pat Lee, FMA public relations director and a member of the Rockford, IL, Chamber of Commerce Manufacturers Council. “That’s why our Council compiled a Web resource on manufacturing careers and provided it to the local high school district. The district then created a web page on its site that is visited regularly by both students and parents.”

FMA’s Shankel sees this movement is starting to change the nation’s mindset on manufacturing. “So many organizations now are committed to make this happen and we’re beginning to see results. Applications for our scholarships have reached record levels. Educators are paying attention. And, young people are flocking to manufacturing camps.





No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.