By Aaron Wiegel, President, Wiegel Tool Works, Inc. – Wood Dale, IL
Manufacturing is essential to the health of the US economy because it creates an end product. An economy cannot be built solely upon providing services. Producing durable goods to sell throughout the world creates well-paying jobs and makes for a strong economy. In today’s modern manufacturing facilities, we require skilled labor, and as the working-class ages and retires the urgent need for workforce development continues to grow.
My family owns a metal-stamping company located just outside of Chicago since 1941. Like many others in our industry we are struggling – but not to find customers; we are struggling to find skilled workers to fill job opportunities such as tool and diemakers, designers, quality technicians and press operators.
As an industry, we must do a better job of promoting careers in manufacturing. We must dispel the myth that manufacturing jobs are dirty, smelly, and dangerous and replace it with the knowledge that manufacturing jobs now require highly skilled technicians and offer job security and career advancement.
A Call to Action
Get directly involved with schools. Open your plant for tours and speak at school events to expose new talent to the latest manufacturing technologies and progressive strides made in the industry. Be sure to include guidance counselors and parents as they are often the gatekeepers of students’ perceptions about careers in manufacturing. Donate used equipment to the local high school’s manufacturing lab and teach the instructors how to use it with their students.
Actively train the next generation of workers with internship and apprenticeship programs. Recruit young talent and then invest in the best hires by sending them for additional skills certifications. Pay them well and they will reward you with their loyalty.
Band together by joining a regional manufacturing association to tackle macro issues. By working collaboratively and combining resources you can accomplish larger goals. Fund a grant or scholarships to help pay for the technical education a student needs to prepare for a career in manufacturing.
Get outside of the industry, too. Seize every opportunity to help improve the perception of manufacturing – and not just on MFGDay. Speak at business forums, contribute to print publications, and leverage podcasts, webinars, and social media to get the message out and increase positive awareness of manufacturing opportunities.
The future of manufacturing will be determined by current industry leaders. Now is the time to take action.
Aaron Wiegel is President of Wiegel Tool Works, Inc. (WTW), a precision metal stamping company that manufacturers have partnered with for 75 year and three generations. As Vice Chairman of the Board for the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) in Illinois, Aaron is passionate about workforce development and actively working to reinvigorate interest in careers in manufacturing.