Today’s post is from Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute.

Would you be likely to encourage your child to consider a career in manufacturing?  According to a recent national survey commissioned by Kronos Incorporated, while 58 percent of parents want their child to be knowledgeable about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and 43 percent agree STEM-focused careers have a promising future, only 20 percent of parents associate STEM education with the manufacturing industry. The public high school my children attended eliminated its industrial arts program years ago.  The passion for STEM leads students and their parents to think about careers where they create things  with keyboards vs. building the keyboard itself.  

I’d guess many of these parents are thinking that during their lifetimes there has been a steady decline of manufacturing jobs that paid middle class wages.   Over 2 million manufacturing jobs disappeared during the recession.  Manufacturing in the US is far from over, though.  Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that more than a million jobs have been added back since the lowest point in early 2010.  According to my colleague Kylene Zenk, director of the manufacturing practice at Kronos, “This is an exciting time of digital transformation for many manufacturers and the industry is bursting with opportunity for new and inspired talent. However, nearly half a million manufacturing jobs today are unfilled, and a growing talent shortage suggests manufacturers may have a hard time attracting next-generation employees to fill these positions.”

Our survey results represent the responses of 1,004 U.S. parents of children under 18 who were asked about their perceptions of the manufacturing industry as well as priorities regarding their child’s future career path. The survey revealed a general lack of knowledge about the manufacturing industry, with many parents (40 percent) stating that they do not have any experience with the manufacturing industry, and three out of four (76 percent) admitting they were unaware that the manufacturing industry is facing a workforce shortage.

However, once presented with facts about the industry’s surging growth,economic outlook, and wide availability of high paying jobs, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of parents said they would encourage their child to learn more about career opportunities in manufacturing, and nearly half (47 percent) would even consider a career in manufacturing for themselves if they could start over.

Additional Key Survey Results:

  • Parents’ perceptions about the manufacturing industry make it less likely they would encourage their child to pursue a career in that field.
    • Compared to the majority of parents who would be likely to encourage their child to consider a career in a technology (88 percent) or engineering (82 percent) field, only 49 percent would be likely to encourage their child to consider a career in manufacturing.
    • The majority of parents anticipate their child will pursue higher education (84 percent), and nearly one-quarter of parents (22 percent) believe that a career in manufacturing requires only basic skills/training (i.e. no college degree).
    • About half of parents associate manual work (59 percent) and hourly work (50 percent) with manufacturing, while many associate long hours/overtime (45 percent), unskilled labor (32 percent), and unfavorable working conditions (30 percent).
    • For the most part, parents were less likely to associate these attributes with the manufacturing industry: an engineering degree (29 percent), modern workplace technology (25 percent), artificial intelligence/machine learning (24 percent), or salaried work (21 percent).
    • A mere 20 percent of parents associate desirable pay with a career in manufacturing, while research shows manufacturing workers actually earn 13 percent more than comparable workers in other industries.3
  • A career in manufacturing would give parents exactly what they want for their child’s career – even if they don’t know it.
    • About half of parents would encourage their child to pursue a career path that offers opportunities for growth or advancement (56 percent) and would encourage them to consider the future industry outlook (52 percent).
    • Additionally, parents would encourage their child to consider the average salary/pay (45 percent) and the number of open job opportunities (38 percent) in a given industry – both of which spiked in manufacturing in 2018.
    • Two out of five parents think STEM education should be a top priority for their child (44 percent) and agree that STEM skills are vital to succeed in any industry (41 percent). However, only 20 percent of parents associate STEM education specifically with the manufacturing industry.
  • Awareness makes a difference: Parents’ perceptions of the manufacturing industry have shifted over time.
    • When in high school, few parents perceived the industry to have well-paying jobs (18 percent) or a lot of available jobs/opportunities (18 percent). Now as adults with children of their own, 31 percent of parents perceive the manufacturing industry to have well-paying jobs, and 28 percent perceive there to be a lot of available jobs/opportunities.
    • Additionally, in contrast to their teenage perspectives, today, more parents consider manufacturing to be a “modern industry with a strong focus on technology” (28 percent; up from 12 percent during their high school years) and “a fast-growing industry” (26 percent, up from 14 percent).
    • 62 percent of parents who have/had student loans admitted to feeling like they could have paid off their student loan debt faster if they had chosen a different career, and 31 percent of employed parents shared disappointment with their current career path.

Would you consider a career in manufacturing for your children? For yourself?

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