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In Your Community

Advancing Modern Manufacturing Career Pathways

By Arlene Marks

February 24, 2020

Smiling employees wearing hard hats in a manufacturing plant

One of the greatest issues facing American manufacturers today is the shortage of people opting to pursue a manufacturing career. The 2018 skills gap study conducted jointly by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found an estimated 2.4 million manufacturing positions will go unfilled between 2018 and 2028.

In exploring the reasons for this disparity there are two main issues that need to be addressed. The first issue is around misconceptions people have in relation to modern manufacturing while the second issue centers around the future workforce and the skills they possess, or the lack thereof.

Myth vs. Reality

One reason people are not opting to pursue careers in manufacturing is the general misconception that manufacturing jobs are not exciting and might even be construed as "dirty." In fact, the days of assembly lines and conveyor belts have been replaced with computers, artificial intelligence, and the careers that accompany them.

Education about and exposure to today's manufacturing are the only ways to dispel these misconceptions. That is why the National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute initiated Manufacturing Day.

Manufacturing Day, held annually on the first Friday of October, is an opportunity for manufacturers to open their doors to their communities and expose students to the varied manufacturing career choices available to them in the industry.

Partnership for Progress

Exposing students to the opportunities available to them is not enough. The next step in the journey is to arm them with the necessary skills to be successful in these technology-based careers.

STEM education plays a major role in setting them up for future success. However, when it comes to STEM education, not all school districts are funded equally. According to the U.S. Department of Education, high poverty education districts in the U.S. spend 15.6% less per student leaving both the students and educators with less access to STEM resources. The absence of resources in these districts leads to the underrepresentation of minorities choosing careers in fields which heavily rely on STEM education.

In an effort to advance the future of STEM education and inclusive learning, Discovery Education, in partnership with a cohort of corporate leaders including GAF, has formed the STEM Careers Coalition. Through their STEM careers initiative, they are bridging the opportunity, knowledge, and equity gaps by connecting students to impactful careers with resources that bring relevancy to learning and broaden their understanding of and engagement with STEM.

Manufacturing Day Initiative

At GAF we welcome the opportunity to work with students in our communities on Manufacturing Day and throughout the year. Historically, GAF has done this by inviting students into our facilities where we provide visibility to the manufacturing career options available to them in their own communities. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to host in-person events and have had to find other ways to connect with our communities.

Starting this year on October 2, in partnership with Discovery Education's STEM Career Coalition, GAF will be celebrating Manufacturing Day by exposing students to career opportunities in modern manufacturing through supplemental digital learning tools for teachers, parents, and students via their COVID-19 Response Initiative. We invite you to celebrate Manufacturing Day and explore these learning tools by visiting Discovery Education's COVID-19 learning hub.

In modern manufacturing, talented individuals with an education and background in STEM are in growing demand. STEM education plays a key role in building the foundation for those technology-based careers. Through our partnership with Discovery Education, GAF is committed to helping bridge the skills gap and better prepare students for these opportunities in our communities and across the U.S.

About the Author

Arlene Marks has been a part of the GAF community for 15 years. In her current position as Corporate Community Engagement Manager she develops and implements community programs in support of GAF's community impact initiative. Arlene holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education.

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