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What Do We Tell Our Kids about Manufacturing

By Shari L.S. Worthington, President, Telesian Technology, Inc.

In October, I had the pleasure of participating in an interesting panel discussion at ISA 2006 in Houston, Texas, the annual conference of the Instrument Society of America. The panel, Dick’s Last Retort, was the closing roundtable led by manufacturing industry pundit Dick Morley of Milford, NH. The focus of the discussion was education and manufacturing and what can be done to turn around our beloved industry.

But herein lies a fundamental question, is manufacturing really our "beloved" industry?

Local advocates like Jack Healy of MassMEP and the Manufacturing Advancement Center and Ted Coghlin of Coghlin Electric have spent years working to provide resources so local manufacturers can improve their businesses, from Lean manufacturing training to workforce development. One of the most recent efforts involved a major push to revamp the vocational education system, culminating in last year’s grand opening of the new Worcester Vocational School, complete with state-of-the-art production machinery.

But is this enough?

At Dick’s Last Retort, an interesting question was raised in front of a group of hundreds of manufacturing professionals. The audience included manufacturing executives, product managers, marketing and sales managers, design engineers, process control engineers, quality managers, and more.

Being ever the marketing person, I stated that if we want to see manufacturing grow, we need to help it along. We need to promote manufacturing as a great career, as a cool business. We need to market our industry. We need to be better advocates for manufacturing.

Then someone took this one step further. They asked the audience, "Would you, a member of the manufacturing community, recommend a career in manufacturing to your child?"

The room grew silent. Painfully silent.

Slowly people started discussing the issue. Would we? What about all the layoffs we’ve seen? What about the off-shoring? What about the tremendous unknowns? Does the industry still provide a respectable career path at all levels?

Then the positives surfaced. What about the pride we all experience when we produce a quality product? What about the tremendous camaraderie from our team members? What about the satisfaction from an honest, hands-on living?

So let me ask you the question…Would you recommend a career in manufacturing to your child? If not, why not? If we’re going to keep manufacturing viable, we, the manufacturing industry’s participants, need to put forth our best efforts to sell what’s good and wholesome and rewarding in our industry.

If we can’t be our own best advocates, how can we expect anyone else to?


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