Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Students throughout Ohio can take part in camps organized by Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Ah, summertime – the time of year when many young children run off to camp. I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about the summers I spent at camp when I was a kid.

There’s a camp out there for all kids, no matter what they’re interested in – adventure camps, religious camps, sports camps, and scout camps, to name a few. In the past few years, a new kind of summer camp has cropped up that we are really jazzed about here at AAM: manufacturing camp.

For the past five summers, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has put on manufacturing camps throughout the state of Buckeye State for elementary and middle school students. Brown’s office works with local companies, research institutions, schools, and community organizations so the students can visit engineering and manufacturing facilities to learn hands-on what a career in manufacturing looks like.

Since launching in 2013, the program has grown to 19 camps in 15 counties across the state.

It’s fitting that the camps are in Ohio, considering that its manufacturing sector ranks third in the nation. Ohio has a rich history of manufacturing – at one point in history, manufacturing accounted for over half of Ohio jobs. Although this statistic has fallen, industry still has a large footprint in the state today. Manufacturing is the largest sector of Ohio’s economy, providing about 700,000 jobs in 2017.

Manufacturing is good for both Ohio’s economy and Ohio workers. Jobs in manufacturing are well-paying – the average annual earnings of Ohio workers in manufacturing were $72,000 per year in 2016, which is higher than average.

Despite the benefits of manufacturing to the economy, we frequently hear about the “skills gap.” A Deloitte report in 2015 projected that over the next ten years, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled, and 2 million of those jobs are expected to go unfilled.

AAM long has argued that both the government and the private sector have a role to play in closing that gap. But part of the problem is a perception issue among many young people (and their parents) about factory jobs.

Unfortunately, many people subscribe to the idea that the only way they can be successful is if they go to a traditional four-year university, or they have a negative view of manufacturing.

The Foundation of Fabricators & Manufacturers Association conducted a poll that found that 52 percent of teenagers said they have no interest in a career in manufacturing. Of those, 61 percent perceived manufacturing careers to be at a “dirty, dangerous place that requires little thinking or skill from its workers and offers minimal opportunity for personal growth or career advancement.”

This view of manufacturing is far from true.

Brown said it best:

“Too often, when some students and parents hear the word ‘manufacturing,’ they think about dirty, dusty old jobs, and the outdated, offensive term ‘rust belt.’ We are working to change that impression, because we know that today’s Ohio factories aren’t rusty – they’re innovative and high-tech, and will provide good-paying, high-skilled jobs to future generations of Ohioans.”

 When people are familiar with manufacturing, they are more likely to view it favorably.

The Foundation of Fabricators and Manufacturers found that survey respondents that were familiar with the manufacturing industry were more likely to rank it higher as a career choice. Also, respondents with high familiarity with manufacturing careers were likely to have more positive views toward the industry and were more than twice as likely to encourage their children to pursue manufacturing careers.

Brown’s program is a step in the right direction when it comes to getting more young people interested in manufacturing careers, and we are excited for the next generation of American workers.

Not only that, the camps look fun! Are we too old to sign up?