Teenagers often complain that their parents don’t understand them. And now a new survey reveals that parents may also have trouble understanding the potential of a career in manufacturing. And it’s costing many kids a future.
The 2015 Parents’ Perceptions of Manufacturing Survey, sponsored by SkillsUSA and the Alcoa Foundation, found that 1 in 5 parents believe manufacturing jobs only pay minimum wage salaries, lack benefits, and won’t provide their child with innovative, intellectually stimulating work. Nearly 9 in 10 parents estimated the average hourly wage for manufacturing jobs at $22 an hour or less. The survey was given to 1,035 US parents of children between ages 6 and 17, enough respondents to assume that the survey’s findings are accurate: within 3% of a 95% confidence rating. That means a majority of parents in the US still believe in the long-standing stereotype that manufacturing careers like welding are low-paying, dead-end, grunt-work jobs for uneducated people.
Fortunately, industry data shows that parents’ fears are largely unfounded. According to data from the Manufacturing Institute, the industry average is really $34 per hour. The average annual salary for entry-level manufacturing engineers is $60,000, with plenty of room to grow as the worker gains experience and certifications. The manufacturing industry provides medical benefits for 9 in 10 workers. The industry also has the highest job tenure in the private sector, based on data from the US Department of Commerce. Careers like welding and weld inspection also offer plenty of opportunities to travel and meet interesting new people, if adventure is a career priority.
However, the negative stereotypes surrounding manufacturing has plagued the industry for some time. Information about the benefits and growth potential of manufacturing careers is readily available, but many parents don’t do the research. The stereotypical image of manufacturing is so pervasive that most assume they already have all the facts.
Tim Lawrence, Executive Director of SkillsUSA, told The Journal, “Parents have some awareness about manufacturing careers, but there are still looming misperceptions about the robust, exciting prospects for their sons and daughters, especially as more than half of manufacturers see a shortage of manufacturing talent.” Lawrence also observed that “Students have plenty of options to explore within the field of STEM education and manufacturing careers, and can earn strong wages and benefits.”
There is a small silver lining to the survey’s findings. A majority of US parents agree with Lawrence about the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in achieving economic success. Unfortunately, that lining is mostly undercut by a third of parents who believe that manufacturing and trade industry jobs don’t necessarily require a college education. In other words, they don’t see a correlation between STEM and manufacturing careers.
The survey highlights the need for the private sector and organizations like AWS, the Manufacturing Institute, and SkillsUSA to reach out to communities and help dispel this stereotype before it keeps any more potential young welders from engaging, well-payed careers. And before it costs the industry any more potential talent. So while the survey results may seem grim, it’s better to think of it as a way of learning who needs this information most so we can all work together to make a real impact on the way people perceive manufacturing.
AWS Learning: If you’re looking for more ways to get involved in the industry, or are looking for new ways to expand you’re welding career, check out our other blogs, podcasts, virtual conferences, online courses, and digital tools designed to help you grow and succeed.