When Did Manufacturing Become a Dirty Word?

When Did Manufacturing Become a Dirty Word?

Guest post by Pamela Kan, President of Bishop Wisecarver

The word manufacturing has such negative connotations that it is avoided in marketing educational programs.
What has happened in our country to make our next generation so turned off by the word manufacturing?

  1. Its Dirty.Too many kids and their parents still see manufacturing as a “dirty” job.  This is far from true, especially in the state of California. Environmental, health and safety laws have created clean and safe work environments. Our facilities lead the world.  The rise of lean and continuous improvement cultures have made many manufacturing facilities almost clean enough to eat off the floor (I say this with the five-second rule in mind).
  2. It’s Dumb.Wrong! Manufacturing drives the majority of innovation and R&D investment in our country. Manufactures are leading the way in new technologies and the design and development of products that improve our daily lives and the welfare of people around the world. If you want to be on the cutting edge, then you want a job in manufacturing.
  3. It’s Boring. Images of the Henry Ford assembly line still exist in many minds. We have come a long way, baby! In fact, manufacturers like myselfnow have trouble finding the skilled workforce needed to run the type of state-of-the-art technology machines we now have on our production floors. Making chips fly takes brains and skill.
  4. It’s Cheap.Wrong again! Manufacturing jobs on average pay 20k higher than service sector jobs. Manufacturing jobs are the back bone of a strong middle class.
  5. It’s Dead. Excuse me? When is the world going to stop consuming? Why do we think manufacturing is a thing of the past when we as a nation are the largest consumer of goods in the world? The face of manufacturing may be changing in the US but it is far from dead. Just look at the DYI craze and the rise of the Maker Faire phenomena. Just thinking about the impact that additive manufacturing will have over the next decade is mind blowing.

I am happy to see that both presidential candidates are at least uttering the “M” word. But in my book, neither has really given manufacturing the credit it deserves for the role it plays in a strong US economy.

PMPA certainly agrees that manufacturing is a great career opportunity and shares the concern about not enough people entering the precision machining field. Thanks to Pamela Kan at Bishop Wisecarver for the share.
You can see Pamela’s Original Post here
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12 Responses to When Did Manufacturing Become a Dirty Word?

  1. I couldn’t have said it better. American workers need to wake up and see the opportunities right in their back yard

    • speakingofprecision says:

      Thanks John. For too long as a country we have underestimated the value of manufacturing and craftwork. With over 54% of recent college graduates underemployed or unemployed (and still owing on student debt, This country is getting a pointed lesson in what really adds value to our lives and our economy.

  2. Rob W. says:

    I agree completely! From an early age our kids are being taught anything involving the use of their hands is somehow mindless. While selling tools and fasteners I had the opportunity of meeting some of the most intelligent people. Some would look at a blueprint and explain to an obviously insulted engineer why his drawing wouldn’t work. We need to grow our own employees. Higher education may not be for everyone at the age of 18 but what is wrong with working a job & learning why you earn? Start your career running a machine finish your career designing them! Manufacturing and the trades are looked at by the Educational establishment as a consolation rather than a path to excellence.

    • speakingofprecision says:

      Thanks Rob. For too long as a country we have underestimated the value of manufacturing and overestimated the payback of College. With over 54% of recent college graduates underemployed or unemployed (and still owing on their student debt) this country is getting a pointed lesson in what really adds value to our lives and our economy.

  3. Mark B. says:

    Sorry but I will have to disagree, Being a machinist for over 25 years and having children who are now finishing college I can tell you its not because it is a dirty job. The reason many parents steer there children away from manufacturing is because of the fact that many executives believed it was a good idea to move all manufacturing to foreign country’s where labor rates are very low.
    Most of us want our kids to go to school to prepare for a job that is available in the US and cannot be sent to China, India, or Mexico.
    People won’t soon forget all the jobs lost and hardships caused by this brilliant idea.

    • speakingofprecision says:

      MArk, we’re not saying manufacturing is dirty, but the widely held perception in the culture is that it is not a place for our kids… For too long as a country we have underestimated the value of manufacturing and overestimated the payback of College. With over 54% of recent college graduates underemployed or unemployed (and still owing on their student debt) this country is getting a pointed lesson in what really adds value to our lives and our economy.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    • I agree with you Mark B. the misconception is not that “manufacturing is dirty” or any of the other 5 reasons (except 1) that where mentioned in this post. The true reasons parents guide their kids away are outlined at http://bin95.com/manufacturing-career-path.htm One of which is job security as you mentioned Mark, moving jobs away.

      The president, schools, CEOs will not reverse the misconceptions about manufacturing until they 1st correctly identify the problem. Currently most have a misconception about the misconceptions. :>) The “job being dirty” is one of the first and most mentioned reasons MFG thinks people are turned off, Yet that reason is the least. Financial and job security are the primary reasons parents steer their children in other directions.

      In number 4, the one reason she got right, she counters with “Manufacturing jobs on average pay 20k higher than service sector jobs”, but the post is comparing manufacturing to college type jobs, not service jobs. You might make more than if you clean hotels, but kids are not choosing to clean hotel rooms or flip burgers over manufacturing, they are choosing college level jobs, like health, design, computing, etc. Which have higher pay and more job opportunities/security.

      New York times has another great example of this, read the interview with precision machining manufacturer at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/magazine/skills-dont-pay-the-bills.html his mentality is representative of why parents advise their kids to pursue another industry. That is truly what and why people think what they do.

      Kids are smart now days, you can’t distort the facts and think you will convince them, you need to fix the actual problem. Fix MFG pay and job security, save the country. :>)

  4. Terry Woods says:

    You have nailed it we has parents sent our kids to university or college to get degrees in fields that are totally a waste of time. I am not saying all education is not good but when are our positions going to wake up and make all manufacturers especially machinists and tool makers carry apprentices, if they have the hands on skill they are self sufficient in 6-8 months the government should encourage this by sponsoring this time. We should be going into high school to talk to students on the opportunity that is out there. We must speak proudly of our trade when you think about it there is nothing produced on this planet other than fruit and livestock that does require to be touched in manufacturing.

  5. M R Rao says:

    I read news about made in USA is staging a comeback. I want USA not only in the field of high tech mfg.. Expecting only white collar job should be quarantined. It’s by soiling your hands on the shop floor you will not only do justice to thyself, you will also bring fame to the country. Moreover , it will open the door for employment . There may be many in the waiting. Am a mechanical engineer. All the best

  6. Pamela Kan says:

    I am glad to see my blog generated such a great discussion. While I understand the comments around job security I have to say from my experience I have a hard time hiring anyone for my production floor. I don’t see a large pool of potential employees so therefore I think those with the skillsets to run and operate CNC and other more advanced manufacturing equipment and processes actually have a good chance of a fairly secure job environment. I think fairly soon mechanical and mechatronic engineers will be so scarce they will command premium wages will have they pick of jobs to choose from.

    • speakingofprecision says:

      We certainly agree!
      Your post generated an extensive number of comments on various linked in groups in metalworking as well.
      Thanks for your thought leadership.

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