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Parents and Educators

We are headed for a potential national employment crisis in the United States. A survey completed by NBT in late 2009 showed that the U.S. is a nation of non-tinkerers and that young people today don’t have an interest in jobs where they work with their hands.

Look at these statistics:

TEENS

  • 73% have little or no interest, or are ambivalent, about joining the ranks of blue collar workers as an adult.
  • 61% of teens say they seek a professional career when asked why they aren’t interested in manufacturing, far surpassing other issues such as pay (17%), career growth (15%) and physical work (14%).
  • 61% never have visited or toured a factory or other manufacturing facility
  • 28% have taken an industrial arts or shop class
  • 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.

ADULTS

  • 58% have never made or built a toy.
  • 27% have not made or built even one item from a list of eight common projects ranging from a dollhouse or piece of furniture to a fence or flower box.
  • 60% avoid handling major household repairs, opting to hire a handyman,
    enlist their spouse, ask a relative or contact a property manager.
  • 57% say they have average or below average skills at fixing things around the house.
  • 56% who have children would recommend their sons and daughters pursue a manufacturing career or another kind of technical work such as welding, electrical or equipment repair.

With the average age of a manufacturing worker at 57 years of age, the workforce in our manufacturing sector will be retiring in droves over the next 10 years, but the statistics show there’s not a ready and willing workforce being trained to replace them. Even today, statistics from the international firm, Manpower, show that among the hardest jobs to fill in every developed nation — including the U.S. — are those that require hands on technical skills. You can read more about this here.

What’s Your Role as a Parent or Educator?

If you are a parent with children who have never had an opportunity to tinker or work on crafts, or learn how to use tools, then they might be missing out on a career option to enter the fascinating high-tech world of manufacturing. Given that shop classes have been disappearing from America’s schools for more than 25 years, it’s likely that they will never get the introduction in school. If you are a teacher, counselor or administrator in one of America’s schools, you know this is true. Many kids don’t do well in the traditional classroom setting but can flourish when given the opportunity for hands-on learning. Even kids who eventually go on to become lawyers, accountants or doctors can have a better appreciation of the world they live in if they’ve had an opportunity to learn to work with their hands as a kid. Just listen to the podcast recording of this young patent attorney.

Teachers and counselors: We encourage you to find ways to encourage the students you advise to have this kind of hands-on career experience. Our summer manufacturing camps have been in existence since 2004 and every year in every camp we hear about young people who literally have a life-changing experience as a result of their week in camp, being inspired to pursue a career they had never even heard of before the camp started. Kids who couldn’t wait to drop out of school have been inspired to stay in school because they suddenly see a career path they could pursue happily and understand what it will take to get to their dream. With national statistics showing that only 75% of students who start high school graduate — and some states showing a graduation rate of less than 60% — our nation is in trouble unless we can inspire kids to stay in high school and get a diploma. Then we need to make sure they get the special skills that will make them employable. This doesn’t mean every kid needs a 4-year college degree. But it does mean that every young person needs to learn skills that employers need and value.

Whether you live in a town where there is an NBT manufacturing summer camp or not, (and our camps aren’t everywhere — yet), we hope you will look for equivalent kinds of experiences for your kids at your local community colleges or Boys & Girls Clubs or elsewhere.

To learn about NBT summer manufacturing camps, read more here.

To learn about our community college and trade school scholarships for students preparing for manufacturing careers, read more here.

*Poll results are based on the responses of 1,000 U.S. adults, who participated in a telephone survey and 500 U.S. teens, age 13 to 17, who participated in a Web survey in September 2009.