Highly-skilled manufacturing jobs are attractive careers for many students. Here’s how we can get more of the younger generation engaged and interested in these job opportunities.
In 2018, roughly 1-2 million manufacturing sector jobs in the U.S. were unfilled. The unemployment rate hovered at historic lows and there simply weren’t enough skilled applicants available in the labor pool. The global pandemic hasn’t helped the situation. In some cases, issues like social distancing, shutdowns, and quarantines have made finding good job candidates even more difficult.
The problem can be traced back to the K-12 level, where parents often hustle their students past manufacturing opportunities at career fairs saying, “that’s not for you.” The reality is that most of the advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, smart-sensors, and the Internet of Things (IoT), converge in the high-tech manufacturing settings. This makes manufacturing a good career target for students across a wide range of skills, aptitudes, and interests.
For example, manufacturers are looking for talented problem solvers who have a multidisciplinary understanding of hardware and software, and who possess the ability to learn new topics and upskill on the go. Unlike their grandparents, these workers will not be stuck behind a machine for their entire careers. They will be highly skilled, mobile, and in demand as they demonstrate their abilities to continually learn, adapt to new technologies, and solve new problems. These are also well paying jobs!
Here are seven easy ways that all schools and teachers can help get more students interested in these types of jobs:
- Help change the perception. Students and their parents may have outdated ideas of what a manufacturing career entails. Bring industry people in (or meet via Zoom) to talk to students, share their paths, and talk about what they’re doing now.
- Take field trips to factories. Students will want to understand the skills needed to work in such a place. Some employers offer “virtual tours” and other online clips that can serve as a substitute for in-person trips. Check out the career pages on their website – they often have videos online.
- Focus on both girls and boys. Let them know this isn’t going to be like the “shop class” of the 1990s, which was mostly populated by boys who were interested in vocational jobs. The field offers excellent opportunities for women—from entry-level jobs right up to C-level positions.
- Give them an inside look at what they’ll be doing. Share the experience and preview the skills that need to be learned. Show students the future of manufacturing and the value that it brings to the world.
- Create compelling coursework. Many programs are adopting new technology, but they still have the old “shop” feel. Let students see manufacturing for what it is today (i.e., high tech). Expose them to all the new technologies.
- Give them something in return. Show them how they can accumulate credits or certifications that can be used post-graduation. With these in hand, they can either go on to further study or get a job.
- Partner with local companies. Along with regional education centers, these organizations can help you create a marketing and branding campaign about the unmet needs in emerging technology jobs.
Using interactive technology learning environments with technology like simulations, AR, & VR you can introduce students to emerging technology and help them develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. These are exactly the skills the manufacturing industry needs to help it solve real-world problems. By introducing STEM skills to boys and girls early, and by building new skills on that foundation through advanced technology training, schools can help youngsters follow a career pathway to a highly-technical career.
Ido Yerushalmi is CEO at Intelitek.