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Students from Anderson New Technology High School and Redding Christian High School strike a Manufacturing Day pose in Redding, California.

Shining a Light on Manufacturing Day

Embracing technology and opening doors to students is critical for our industry to thrive.

When I’m asked what it’s like to be part of the manufacturing industry, my answer is simple. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment in knowing I helped create something that provides value for someone else; to start from nothing and result in something real to touch or hold. But manufacturing is about more than the results of the work itself—the future of manufacturing greatly depends on its workforce.

Domestic manufacturing is critical to the United States because it not only creates local businesses and jobs, but also allows business owners to control their timeline when products are needed quickly.

Manufacturing is the economic backbone cities and towns are built upon. It’s important to keep manufacturing jobs in our local communities, and that means changing the perception of what a career in manufacturing looks like.

I’m the president of Signarama, the largest sign and graphics franchise in the world. Our franchisees make a large percentage of their products in-house. This allows a quick turnaround time for customers, and the sense they are helping their local community. It’s a way to help other businesses grow while expanding your own.

As technology advances, so do the disrupters that affect the printing and signmaking industry. 3-D printing, for instance, has already made a huge impact. Signarama has incorporated the technology needed to create 3-D letters and signage because thriving requires the ability to evolve with the times.

On October 4, Signarama invited select high school and college students to visit our West Palm Beach headquarters to celebrate Sign Manufacturing Day. The students received a behind-the-scenes glimpse of sign making in real time, while shadowing industry experts. They had direct access to manufacturers and educators to learn all the aspects of a career in the industry. The International Sign Association, in partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers, established Sign Manufacturing Day in 2011 to encourage students to explore the diverse career opportunities available to them, from graphic designers to production specialists and project managers.

I believe the manufacturing industry will have a brighter future by narrowing its focus on specialties and products. High-quality, quick manufacturers will win in 2020 and beyond. We need to set our sights on the future and continue the momentum. This includes continuing with outreach programs much like Sign Manufacturing Day in order to build the best workforce possible.

My career in manufacturing has been very rewarding. I am still learning every day. I love the aspect of making an idea a true reality. We can take a business owner’s idea from conception to creation and watch it progress through each stage of design, printing and production. The smile on a customer’s face when my team has done a good job is priceless. A sense of pride, accomplishment and the knowledge that what I’ve created provides value to someone else is exactly what a career in manufacturing holds for me.

A.J. Titus is the president of Signarama, the world’s largest sign and graphics franchise. Signarama is a member of United Franchise Group (UFG), comprised of nine brands and 1,600 franchise owners in 80 countries. A.J. sits on multiple boards, including the Rinker School of Business and the Titus Center for Franchising. He is passionate about driving change in the business world, and was recognized in South Florida Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” in 2018.

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