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Making Manufacturing “Cool” for our Youth

Making Manufacturing “Cool” for our Youth

In an article in July 2, 2008 issue of Industry Week magazine, John Madigan, a consultant with Madigan Associates, observed, “Jobs paying $20 per hour that historically enabled wage earners to support a middle-class standard of living are leaving the U.S. Michele Nash-HoffPublic sector aside; only 16 percent of today’s workers earn the $20-per-hour baseline wage, down 60 percent since 1979.We need to help our youth realize that manufacturing careers, and particularly the advanced manufacturing that now dominates the U.S. industrial sector, creates more wealth than any other industry. Moreover, manufacturing pays higher wages and provides greater benefits, on average, than other industries. For example, in 2010, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $77,186 annually, including pay and benefits. The average non-manufacturing worker earned $56,436.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation (SME) is working to change the image of manufacturing and make it “cool” by sponsoring the “Manufacturing is Cool” award winning, interactive website, which challenges and engages students in basic engineering and science principles and provides interesting and useful educational resources for teachers. This fun and information rich website was recently “re-engineered” (updated) and marketed around the country. SME has received positive feedback from teachers, parents, and students about its usefulness.

“The explosion of technology and advanced manufacturing processes are evolving faster than it can be learned and applied,” says Bart A. Aslin, CEO, SME Education Foundation. “We designed the Manufacturing is Cool website to inspire, prepare and support young people for careers in advanced manufacturing without patronizing them. We’re giving them access to real-world - people, jobs and technologies, all critical to them finding their place in a global economy.”

The site engages students in basic engineering and science principles and provides interesting and useful educational resources for parents and teachers. Today’s tech-savvy K-12 audience can explore the exciting world of advanced manufacturing engineering 24/7 to learn about the careers it offers and how its advanced technologies affect their daily lives.

In 2011, the SME Education Foundation initiated  PRIME® (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education) as a major national initiative to take a community-based approach to advanced manufacturing education and create strong partnerships between exemplary schools, businesses and organizations. Through its advanced manufacturing education program, SME is re-tooling and building the pipeline with technically skilled workers as business, industry and academia form partnerships and accelerate their collaborative efforts to provide funding, equipment, mentoring, teacher training and co-op programs for high school students to begin manufacturing products in the classroom. The manufacturing sector is on the upswing and public perception of manufacturing as a career is more positive as students see first-hand the kinds of things they are capable of making.

Since 2011, the following schools have been designated as PRIME® schools:

ALABAMA: Calera High School provides an enrollment of approximately 900 students, grades 9-12, provides a pre-engineering program offers opportunities for student scholastic achievement with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum.


Hawthorne High School, Los Angeles, CA - the School of Engineering and Manufacturing has 347 students and has a rigorous educational program built on the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum

Esperanza High School, Anaheim, California - a comprehensive four-year public high school serving an enrollment of 1808 students in the northeast part of Orange County.

Petaluma High School, Petaluma, CA - a public high school in which students can self-select a pathway leading to certification at graduation, leading to post-secondary opportunities, credit enhancement, or directly to the workforce.

ILLINOIS:  Wheeling High School, Wheeling, Il - is a public, culturally diverse, four-year comprehensive high school with a STEM providing college credit bearing courses and entry level career certifications including information technology, engineering, architecture and advanced manufacturing. It has a newly equipped fabrication, prototyping lab rivaling local manufacturing companies and a team of engineering students who are quickly becoming advanced manufacturing savvy. The lab includes a 3D printer for rapid prototyping, HAAS CNC lathes and mill, CNC Plasma Cutter, CNC training stations, robotic workstation, surface grinder and more.

“Our students graduate with more than a diploma in hand,” says Dr. Lazaro J. Lopez, principal, Wheeling High School. “Students have an opportunity to leave here with 14 college credits and be on their way to securing an associate degree in manufacturing technology as well as NIMS certification in two or three areas, plus all four MSSC safety certifications. Students who want to work after graduation will be able to meet the expectations of the hiring manufacturer.”

INDIANAMcKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology, Indianapolis, IN. The McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology houses state-of-the art equipment, materials and curriculum. A high concentration of student population is involved with PLTW courses in pre-engineering and biomedical science. Students receive dual college credit and national certifications in their fields of study.

Walker Career Center, Indianapolis, IN offers 24 career and technical education programs equipped with state-of the-art technology. Each program offers excellent instruction and most programs lead to an industry certification or college dual credit which in most cases, is free to their students.

The Walker Center also provides Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) using Chris and Jim’s CIM, a web resource that makes it possible for students, teachers and even industry pros to find solutions to problems they might encounter with this technology. This resource site, created by CIM educators Jim Hanson of Walker Career Center and Chris Hurd of Cazenovia High School in New York, started as a tool to help their students continue to learn outside of the classroom but developed into a knowledge, research and exploration instrument used by many industry professionals. Chris and Jim’s CIM is another way to help educate and train a new generation of engineers to deal with state-of-the-art technology in designing, manufacturing, maintaining, selecting, and procuring manufacturing engineering systems.

IOWACedar Falls High School provides courses that satisfy elective requirements for World Studies, Personal Economics, Health, Practical Arts, and General Administrative. Because of a partnership with Hawkeye Community College, students may enroll in college-level courses taught during the regular school day. Upon successful completion of the course, students will earn both high school and college credit.

MASSACHUSETTSWestfield Vocational Technical High School recognizes career and technical education as an integral part of the public school system. Westfield students are prepared for careers which are common in modern industry and offer an abundance of job opportunities upon graduation.

MICHIGAN: The Jackson Area Career Center provides its students with career and technical educational classes, industry certifications, and free college credit, and guidance counseling services. More than 38,000 students have experienced Career Center CTE opportunities and possibilities through hands-on and applied learning.

MISSOURISummit Technology Academy, Kansas City - located on the campus of the Summit Technology Center in Lee’s Summit. It is an off-campus pre-professional learning opportunity for high school students seriously interested in the course technology-based courses of study. Professional IT certifications and dual college credit is offered through Metropolitan Community College, University of Central Missouri, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


Centerville High School in Dayton provides a curriculum that includes vocational courses in the Performing Arts, Music, Preparatory College-Career, and the School of Possibilities offering an alternative educational pathway. It also offers 25 Advanced Placement tests in 18 courses in science, mathematics, history, government, language, economics, and psychology.

Kettering Fairmont High School is a public four-year comprehensive high school with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based education. A majority of students move on to higher education or specialized training. Kettering is an industrial first-ring suburb of Dayton, Ohio that has a local manufacturing base and is in close proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The curriculum supports these industries with PLTW manufacturing curriculum.

OKLAHOMA:  Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City encompasses six public school districts serving 11,780 students who may attend Francis Tuttle tuition-free while in high school. The Center works closely with business and education partners with specific focus on workforce needs of the marketplace with the delivery of on time, just-in-time, customized training.

WISCONSIN: Lynde & Harry Bradley Technology and Trade School is the premier technology and trade school of Milwaukee and offers a broad range of scholastic options, including clear pathways for students into four-year universities, tech/trade education, and apprenticeships.

During the previous recession, the National Association of Manufacturers heard from its members that they were still having trouble attracting employees with the right mix of skills in certain job functions despite layoffs. To learn more, NAM and Deloitte & Touche conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative research across the U.S. They found that an estimated 80 percent of manufacturers reported a moderate-to-serious shortage of qualified job applicants during the recent recession, a problem growing increasingly urgent with the increase in global competition and retirement of Baby Boomers.

They also found that manufacturing has an outdated image, filled with stereotypes of assembly line jobs, that has kept young people from pursuing careers in it. The “Dream It. Do ItTM” campaign was created because these perceptions are out-of-step with manufacturing’s broad range of interesting and financially rewarding careers. Examples include an electrical engineer for a private jet manufacturer, a product developer for a candy manufacturing plant, or a designer at an MP3 manufacturing company.

NAM’s Manufacturing Institute/Center for Workforce Success received almost $500,000 in November 2004 from Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor, for this campaign. Over a period of 36 months, the campaign created, tested, and disseminated a growing set of creative materials. These include radio advertising spots, billboard designs, newspaper and magazine ads, student and parent brochures, and a style-branding guide. The materials are ready to use and provide the national brand to local users.

The campaign has formed strong and committed coalitions with local civic, political, education, and business entities; launched a focused advertising campaign; created a world-class website on the array of highly paid manufacturing jobs; and formed local partnerships with community colleges, technical schools and universities for students pursuing manufacturing careers.

NAM’s “Dream It. Do It TM” Manufacturing Careers Campaign is currently operating in the following regions:

Phoenix, Arizona
FloridaWill County, Illinois
Southeast Indiana
KentuckyWestern Michigan
West Central Minnesota
Kansas City, Missouri
 Chautauqua County, NYNortheast Ohio
Pennsylvania Upstate South Carolina
The Tennessee Valley
North and South Central Texas
Southwest Virginia
Washington StateWisconsin


The SME and NAM programs described above will help expose our youth to the modern manufacturing environment and change the image of manufacturing to one that is “cool” and full of exciting career opportunities for our youth.




One Response to “Making Manufacturing “Cool” for our Youth”

  1. William Ryan says:

    You need to have people from all walks of manufacturing as guest speakers for the students so they can hear from those who actually worked in their areas of interest. I also feel that Lean philosophy, lean six sigma,kaizen,5S, Kata and many other lean tools should be part of the student learning process for any advanced manufacturing endeavor.


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