Oct. 7, 2016, marked the fifth annual Manufacturing Day, when thousands of companies hosted students, teachers, parents, job seekers and community leaders at open houses, plant tours and educational sessions to showcase modern manufacturing technology and the cool jobs available.

It was a chance for students to see the diverse career options that are innovative, impactful and durable.

Manufacturing Day was created in response to a dire need in America: Industry faces a major shortage of skilled workers. An estimated 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled over the next decade due to companies’ inability to find talent with the required skills.

Several industry organizations determined the best way to reverse misperceptions people may have about manufacturing jobs and careers is to show the exciting kind of work that takes place in plants across the U.S.     

Participation grows every year. In 2015, more than 2,600 live events were held attended by more than 225,000 students and 55,000 parents, educators and job seekers. For the first time, participants were polled about their experience. A new Deloitte perception survey developed in collaboration with the Manufacturing Institute was distributed to the more than 2,500 manufacturing companies that hosted events to gather data from attendees. The results were dramatic:

  • 81 percent of student respondents are more convinced manufacturing provides careers that are both interesting and rewarding
  • 71 percent of student respondents are more likely to tell friends, family, parents or colleagues about manufacturing
  • 93 percent of educators are more convinced manufacturing provides careers that are interesting and rewarding
  • 90 percent of educators indicated they are more likely to encourage students to pursue a career in manufacturing.

Reinforcing value 

“These findings significantly reinforce the value of Manufacturing Day,” said Michelle Drew Rodriguez, who studies manufacturing at Deloitte’s Center for Industry Insights. “For those truly exposed to modern-day manufacturing, perceptions do change and, based on that, we will move the needle to better fill the skills gap that challenges so many companies today.”

Rodriguez explained that as a professional services firm, Deloitte talks to senior level executives every day and for them finding top talent is a top-of-mind, critical issue. It’s one reason why Deloitte has partnered with the Manufacturing Institute for a number of years to help tackle the problem.

One of those joint initiatives is Deloitte’s skills gap studies. The current report highlights the impact of the skills gap and offers recommendations on how to help remedy it, which provides further credence to the benefits gained from Manufacturing Day programs.

For example, 82 percent of executives responding to the survey indicate they believe the gap will impact their ability to meet customer demand. More than three-quarters (78 percent) believe it will impact their ability to implement new technologies and increase productivity. Large numbers also report the lack of skilled workers hurts the ability to provide effective customer service (cited by 69 percent) and decreases the ability to innovate and develop new products (62 percent).

The study also addresses the industry perception problem. Citing the research the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte conducted on the public perception of manufacturing, the report notes that “while Americans consider manufacturing among one of the most important domestic industries for maintaining a strong national economy, they rank it low as a career choice for themselves.” The study continues: “Moreover, only 37 percent of respondents indicated they would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.”

According to the report, “those with high industry familiarity tend to have more favorable perceptions, and they are twice as likely as those with no familiarity to encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.” This data aligns with a study done in collaboration with Skills USA, Educational Research of America and the Manufacturing Institute, which found that 64 percent of students identified personal experiences as having the greatest influence over their career decisions.

Engagement is essential 

One conclusion the perception report makes is “manufacturers need to engage people through community, educational and government programs in order to improve the perception of the U.S. manufacturing industry.”

That statement captures the mission of Manufacturing Day. And, as the results of the survey of participants strongly demonstrate, changing perceptions through this initiative has become a tangible measurement.

For students participating in Manufacturing Day, seeing really is believing — believing that their futures can be bright with a career in manufacturing.