Manufacturing Shouldn’t Be a Dirty Word

precision-manufacturingWhat comes to mind when you think of the word manufacturing? For many people, it’s this set of images:

  • Low-skilled labor
  • Physically draining work
  • Dirty, grease-stained workplaces
  • A male-dominated workforce
  • No diversity
  • Gloomy, dimly lit factories
  • Minimal wages with no benefits
  • Lack of passion or opportunity– just a daily grind
  • No workplace camaraderie
  • Poor working hours, long shifts standing on your feet

Somehow, the images that Americans carry around from the Industrial Revolution of the prototypical eighteenth-century factory still exist, and manufacturing carries these antiquated and inaccurate stereotypes along with it. The catch is that none of these stereotypes are true, especially in today’s world of advanced manufacturing. As president and CEO of Proto Labs Vicki Holt explains, “Thanks to massive advancements in automation technology and analytics software, the American manufacturing industry of today is a far cry from the assembly lines and manual labor of the past. Manufacturing in the 21st century is a high-tech fusion of software and mechanical engineering, automated processes, and complex production equipment, 3D CAD models, and on-demand parts.”

This means that in actuality, the images in your head that go along with manufacturing should look more like this:

  • Highly skilled STEM related positions
  • Workers from all backgrounds, both male + female
  • High starting wages, with potential for increases and promotions
  • Enjoyable, modern workplaces
  • Positions with many benefits from health insurance to maternity leave
  • Opportunities for education and advancement
  • Invigorating and inspiring workplace culture
  • Diverse collection of specialties and innovation
  • The latest, most influential technology

Especially as the computer science and technology worlds develop, the manufacturing workplace and method of assembly will continue to grow and thrive, which is why it’s precisely so important to remove the ancient stereotypes and advance the realities of manufacturing that are much, much brighter. This includes the realities of starting salaries: An aspiring machinist can start training at 18. After a 1-2 year apprenticeship, in five years, they could be making more than $50,000! In ten years, that could double to $100,000. Not bad for an entry level job for a 23-year old.

The moral of the story is that manufacturing can be a gateway to a truly successful, and more importantly, enjoyable future. How can we do this? Young people should, and can be excited about STEM skills instead of viewing them as a chore. Head out on a factory tour, practice coding for fun, take advantage of the local science fair! Once students are inspired by the practical applications of their education that translate into real world manufacturing practices, heading to a career is a natural step.

Questions? Want to learn more? Leave us a comment anytime!

photo credit: VSR F01 capper 2 via photopin (license)