Teens Show Little Interest in Manufacturing

Nov. 19, 2009
Most would prefer white-collar careers, according to survey

A new poll showing the majority of teenagers don't view manufacturing as a realistic career option could make finding skilled labor even more difficult for manufacturers in the years ahead.

A survey sponsored by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International shows 52% of 500 teens responding have little or no interest in a manufacturing career, and another 21% are ambivalent.

When asked why, 61% said they seek a professional career, far surpassing other issues such as pay (17%), career growth (15%) and physical work (14%).

"Unfortunately, manufacturing often is not positioned as a viable career by groups such as educators and counselors, and at times factory work even is maligned in pop culture and the media," said Gerald Shankel, president of Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs (NBT), The Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International. "Based on this environment, these findings are not surprising."

The poll also shows:

  • 61% of teens have never visited or toured a factory or other manufacturing facility.
  • Only 28% have taken an industrial arts or shop class, yet 58% have completed a home economics course.
  • 27% spend no time during the week working with their hands on projects such as woodworking or models, 30% less than one hour and just 26% one to two hours.

A separate national poll of 1,000 adults sponsored by NBT reveals parents actually would support having a young factory worker in their family. More than half -- 56% -- would recommend their child pursue a career in manufacturing or another kind of industrial trade.

"Knowing so many parents will back their children in this career path is truly welcome news," said actor and producer John Ratzenberger, an NBT founder who leads the organization's communications outreach.

Shankel also notes that more than 70% of Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong national economy and national security.

"Such sentiment really motivates us to work hard to inspire the next generation of manufacturers, welders, builders, electricians and other trades people," Shankel said

NBT offers grants to not-for-profit organizations and educational institutions that introduce young people to careers in the trades through manufacturing summer camps for youth. It also issues scholarships to students at colleges and trade schools pursuing studies that lead to careers in manufacturing.

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