Why are So Many Americans in the Dark When it Comes to Manufacturing?

Kronos survey highlights lack of STEM knowledge and job satisfaction.

Many people still think of manufacturing as a dirty job when in reality it's anything but.

Many people still think of manufacturing as a dirty job when in reality it’s anything but.

A recent survey entitled “Manufacturing Day: If You Knew Then What You Know Now” has found that 21 percent of Americans have little to no knowledge about the manufacturing industry.

The survey, commissioned by Kronos Incorporated and conducted online by Harris Poll, also found a lack of knowledge regarding STEM subjects, with 69 percent of respondents noting they wish they were more knowledgeable in these areas of study.

While disappointing, this is not all that surprising. For many young Americans, the idea of a working factory no doubt conjures up images of a flamboyant fellow in a top hat pushing sugary confections on children. Wonka’s factory floor doesn’t exactly paint a clear picture for a young person thinking about going into manufacturing.

Why worry about automation when you have a dedicated workforce of Oompa Loompas? 

Is this the face we want for manufacturing? (Image courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Is this the face we want for manufacturing? (Image courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Of course, young people often lack the push that would lead them into manufacturing as a career path.

Schools struggle to drive students into STEM fields while those in the industry often have issues connecting with their upcoming workforce.

The Kronos survey noted that while 89 percent of respondents believe careers with a focus on STEM subjects have a promising future, only 35 percent focused on these skills when choosing their career path.

These issues are compounded by the average American’s lack of insight into the manufacturing industry. Many may see the modern factory as being not far removed from those of the past; only 14 percent of the survey’s respondents believe that manufacturing is a fast growing industry.

Benefits of a Career in Manufacturing

Fortunately, there is hope amidst these worrying statistics. According to the survey, three out of five individuals are currently disappointed in their current career path, with 30 percent of these stating their reasoning being a lack of advancement or learning opportunities, both major benefits of a career in manufacturing.

Kylene Zenk-Batsford, director of the manufacturing practice group at Kronos spoke on the survey results and the industry’s efforts to drive awareness:

“Efforts within the manufacturing industry in recent years to shift the public’s perception of the industry, especially those centered on Manufacturing Day, have definitely had a positive impact. The survey results, however, demonstrate that there is still a lot of opportunity to drive awareness about manufacturing as a stable and growing industry and the fantastic STEM-related careers it offers. Kronos will continue to be a passionate advocate helping inspire and educate the next generation manufacturing workforce through our sponsorship of MFG Day and more.”

There is a long road ahead to shift the public perception of manufacturing, and it begins as early as grade school. Students with drive and passion for STEM subjects will be more likely to follow that into a career in science and engineering.

Combined with efforts by those in the industry, the next generation of engineers may see the manufacturing sector for what it really is: a way to pay off their student loan debts and achieve that job satisfaction so many of us strive for.

Find out more by visiting the Kronos website.