Carlos Cardoso, has been a tireless champion of American manufacturing since he took the helm at Kennametal in 2008. Before that, he was living proof of the opportunities it presents.
Cardoso began his career in manufacturing as what he calls a "shop rat." New to the country, still learning the language, he took what work he could get and he did it well.
That mentality helped propel him on a career that took him straight to the top of his field, preparing for retirement as the president, chairman and CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company. That's a long climb from the shop floor.
After announcing his retirement plans earlier this year, Cardoso has taken some time to examine the state of the industry.
Rebounding from the recession, infused with new technologies and preparing for the Boomer exodus, he finds plenty to be hopeful for in the next generation of industry, and plenty of room for the old American Dream.
In this interview with Cardoso from IMTS 2014, he argues that the reality of U.S. manufacturing is finally starting to catch up with the hype and hope of the manufacturing renaissance.
"The hype has been there for a couple years," he notes. "I think we’re in a good position right now. People are beginning to understand there’s a correlation between manufacturing and the middle class."
Leading that charge, he adds, is the commitment throughout the country to impress the next generation of workers with that understanding and help prepare them for the demands it presents.
"Almost every single state is trying to develop workforce training," he says. "[They are] getting our people prepared for what could be a [renaissance] in manufacturing in this country."
A big part of that, he says, is the adoption of new digital technologies into the hardcore manufacturing world – a trend that not only makes manufacturing easier and more efficient, but more attractive to the young workers that will be taking control.
"Kids today are born with an iPad, with the idea that 'I can get everything in this little box,'" Cardoso quips. "And now you can come into manufacturing, and you can use those skills to be in manufacturing. It’s not as scary as it used to be, where you needed to learn to use very difficult-to-run machines."