Executives are learning they can't start too soon when it comes to attracting young people to manufacturing careers.
"We've got to make manufacturing cool again," says Clifton Vann IV, president of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Livingston & Haven, an industrial technology consultant and provider. "There's no environment that says, 'This [manufacturing] is a good opportunity for our young people and they should pursue it."
The findings of a 2011 survey by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute underscore that point.
Unwavering Commitment: The Public's View of the Manufacturing Industry Today questioned 1,000 adults, and while 86 percent say manufacturing is important for the country, only one-third would encourage their children to pursue manufacturing careers.
Vann's company is working to counteract that, providing money and materials, as well as sharing knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for students from elementary school through college age.
He's been involved in programs such as FIRST—For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology—which strives to interest students in science and math, through things like a Lego competition for elementary school-age children and a robotics competition for older students.
Another program is Camp Invention, a weeklong summer camp focused on hands-on activities to teach kids science and math.
And Charlotte-area high school juniors and seniors have visited Livingston & Haven, where they do things such as experiment with hydraulics. Vann says he tries to teach them that everything from the video games they play to the candy bars they munch on is manufactured.
"There are opportunities for you, but you need an education," Vann says.
Susan Ladika is a writer based in Tampa, Florida. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.