For many students looking to enter the workforce, picking a career path follows a similar pattern to sports teams drafting players — the job that meets the most of their interests becomes the first-round pick, and all subsequent jobs take a step down the selection ladder.
At first glance, this seems like a sound process. But what’s dangerous about this scenario is overlooking many career paths that may be unknown or misperceived, yet meet or exceed job seekers’ interests and goals.
Manufacturing is one such career that’s sometimes labeled as undesirable due to perceptions carried over from past generations. However, the myths of manufacturing offering low pay, dark and dirty environments, and little challenge or technology couldn’t be further from the truth in today’s manufacturing facilities.
Manufacturing plays a crucial role in the U.S. economy, yet across the country there is a shortage of both interest and talent for many much-needed positions. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturing alone makes up the ninth-largest economy in the world, and accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
This source also cites average U.S. manufacturing earnings exceed $77,000 per year for pay and benefits. Wisconsin’s Sixth Congressional District, which covers the southern portion of the New North Region and is where Kondex makes its home, ranks third in the nation for its manufacturing employment, reaching 80,000 jobs.
But without the talent and resources to keep manufacturing growing, these numbers will quickly decline.
The manufacturing environment has greatly improved from stereotypical perceptions. Safety, comfort and technology play a large role in manufacturing productivity and profits. Production areas are well lit, clean, climate-controlled and technology is found throughout these facilities. From tablets and PCs used on plant floors to advanced quality control devices and production equipment, manufacturing simply could not operate without technology in today’s fast-paced, continuous improvement culture.
With many career and cross-training options available, the myth of all manufacturing jobs being monotonous is also false. Highly skilled machinists, welders, mechanics and quality assurance personnel are producing a variety of products while managing varying timelines and customer requirements. In addition, supporting engineering, project management, sales, and customer service positions continually seek out new innovations, designs and process improvements. In short, there is never a dull moment in manufacturing.
Kondex is taking a proactive stance to enlightening our future generations about manufacturing and its many benefits. The company has donated updated technical education equipment to area schools; helped improve tech-ed working environments with new lighting, exhaust systems and paint; provided monetary contributions that support manufacturing in the classroom and partnered with schools on various manufacturing programs. In many cases, these efforts have resulted in an increase in tech-ed course enrollment, which in turn offers more students a first-hand introduction to manufacturing.
Positively influencing perceptions of manufacturing does not always require monetary investments. One of the biggest ways Kondex helps ensure the future of manufacturing is by bringing students into its facility for a tour. In the course of a year, it’s not uncommon for the company to welcome groups totaling several hundred students. Every tour includes at least one comment on the cleanliness of Kondex’s facility, along with several questions about its products and processes.
On some tours, students are already asking to fill out job applications.
Many manufacturers take similar steps to help build the workforce of the future.
In these personal connections with our youth, it’s easy to share a manufacturing perception that still holds true today: the pride that comes from being part of the team standing behind the “Made in America” labels. This sense of purpose and impact beyond corporate profits is one of the most sought-after qualities of new job seekers. Take a closer look at manufacturing, tour its businesses and change perceptions. Together, we can advance manufacturing to a first-round draft pick.
Diane Riley is a marketing professional at Kondex Corp. in Lomira.