The Value of a Manufacturing 101 Education

By Guest Blogger Elisha Tropper

As manufacturers across America seek to recruit a higher-skilled workforce, the messaging to those entering the job market typically runs something along the lines of “this is not your father’s manufacturing anymore.” Certainly, this is accurate, as modern manufacturing no longer stresses the dark and dirty repetitive manual activities along Henry Ford-style production lines but substantially revolves around designing, engineering, implementing, and continuously improving the advancing automation, robotics, and interconnectivity that are its defining features. Across the country, manufacturers and politicians have stressed the need for trade schools and apprenticeship programs to facilitate the education and skills development of those who wish to pursue a career in manufacturing.

However, the industry would do itself a bigger service by introducing manufacturing education earlier and more frequently throughout the educational paths trod by its desired workers, from middle school birds-eye surveys to more detailed high-school and college level courses. Effectively educating the workers of tomorrow about manufacturing prior to their selection of career fields would certainly impact their decisions and grow the pool of potential manufacturing professionals. As important, mainstreaming a substantial overview and understanding of modern manufacturing to those who will ultimately pursue other careers will benefit not only the students but the industry itself.

It is not stretch to state that having a decent understanding of manufacturing is essential for success in many non-manufacturing business and related fields. For example, private equity and venture capital professionals, stock portfolio managers, business reporters, and those who trade or advise on investments in manufacturing companies or industries are far better equipped to effectively analyze their subjects with even a basic understanding of the field. Accountants, lawyers, government workers, and other professions which service the sector would certainly benefit from knowing the fundamentals of manufacturing. And obviously, even a most basic 101-type education would serve any student considering a career in a manufacturing-related field such as:

  • math or the physical sciences (engineering, research, chemistry, etc.)
  • computers (programming, data management, etc.)
  • business (logistics, supply chain management, entrepreneurship, etc.)
  • social sciences (economics, urban planning, industrial psychology, etc.)

The manufacturing sector would itself reap significant rewards from these educational activities. Most obviously, providing an effective introduction of the industry to students at an early stage and continued reinforcement throughout their educational journey will inevitably result in a greater number of students electing to pursue a career in manufacturing. And perhaps of equal significance, even those students who choose other fields will better understand manufacturing, its challenges and issues, and its importance to society. A generation of Americans with such an education would certainly provide improved professional support to the industry and more consistent manufacturing-friendly public policy.

Elisha Tropper is the CEO of Cambridge Security Seals, a Pomona, New York-based manufacturer of tamper-evident security devices.

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