Executive Director's Desk: A New Years Resolution, Time for the Persistence Pill!

A key prescription for altering public perception of manufacturing is persistence. The number of
occasions, repetitions, and variations of the statement “Manufacturing is dirty” in addition to the public’s memory of the factory closures and subsequent unemployment in the late 20th century are constant rebuffs to occasional positive proclamations about manufacturing careers. Thus, our new year's resolution should be clear: It's time to reinforce our persistence.

Manufacturing is one of the common denominators among FLATE Focus readers. This reader knowledge and/or direct involvement in manufacturing also means the reader appreciates that persistence is always part of manufacturing. The design, production and assembly of a reliable product requires the attention to detail that only comes from the persistent, if not relentless, attention to all of the details needed to make that product a success. 

Recruiting and producing the technicians for the 21st century workforce also requires persistence. FLATE is always striving to find ways to create the culture and curriculum that will shape students into effective open-ended problem solvers for Florida's manufacturing sector, however, nationally we all have to recognize that public perception of manufacturing has significant influence on the number of students that pursue manufacturing-related technology programs.  Naturally, other factors, including aptitude for this type of hands-on work, foundational skills in mathematics, good, work-place interaction skills, and others also define ideal/successful manufacturing workforce candidates. However, not many students will seriously explore career pathways in industry sectors that have a poor image and seem to offer no long-term security.  Unfortunately, this is why manufacturing falls off students’ radars. Fortunately, manufacturing careers are high-tech, high-wage, exciting and have multiple promotion and life-long opportunities. We have great manufacturing “careers” waiting – we just have to persistently get that message out to young people, their parents and our communities.

The good news this New Years is that perceptions are changing. The Manufacturing Institute (MI) 
has conducted annual “Perception” surveys since 2009. Over four years, the survey results indicate that overall public perception about the manufacturing industry is steadily improving. The public strongly acknowledges the importance of manufacturing for our country’s security, economic comfort, and our global position. The survey report is available online

The bad news this New Year is the irony embedded in this good news. Despite knowing that manufacturing is an important industry for our future, the public is still pessimistic about the near future growth of American manufacturing. The respondents also choose the pursuit of manufacturing companies as a popular choice when asked what kind of industries they would prefer to bring to their own communities for economic growth and good jobs. The fact that American manufacturing is expanding and that there are great jobs in manufacturing just waiting for the skilled and educated technician should not continue to be one of America's best kept secrets!

The message this New Year's month is simple. It’s time to persistently reinforce the many positive images of manufacturing as a stable and growing sector with good, high-wage and high-tech jobs anytime and anywhere we can. We can do it alone, or we can do it together. Many more people have to learn and internalize the fact that manufacturing is a safe, exciting high-tech work environment that requires multi-skilled technicians who are trained and educated in the latest technologies.

Finally as a brief breather, take the time to check out the rest of this month's FLATE Focus.  We have stories and updates about upcoming robotics competitions and FLATE’s sustainability-efforts. We also have some stories from our partners at Mentor Connect and Polygon Solutions—a global leader in manufacturing. Oh yes, don't forget to check your answer to last month’s sTEm puzzle. Perhaps Rudolph still has a surprise for you!        

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