Manufacturing Day touts strong jobs, technology

Across America, students and political leaders get a first-hand view of U.S. plants


U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) tours the Miro Tool & Mfg. in Waukesha on Oct. 2. The tour was one of many events around the U.S. on Oct. 2 to mark Manufacturing Day. Image courtesy Miro Tool & Mfg.Manufacturing opened its doors to America on Oct. 2 to give the nation a fresh look at how the nation's plants operate today, and what they will need to continue to grow for the future.

The 2015 Manufacturing Day was marked with visits to plants across the country from curious high school students and various political leaders. The goal at each location was the same: to show the present state of U.S. manufacturing and to emphasize the needs for technology and for the people to operate that technology.

"Modern manufacturing is highly sophisticated with many opportunities for advancement, yet there is often a misconception that these jobs are undesirable," said Roger Nielsen, chief operating officer for Daimler Trucks North America at his company's event in Cleveland, N.C. "By participating in Manufacturing Day, we are able to directly connect with students and start to shift the perception about manufacturing today."

More than 100 students from two local high schools joined Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), at the Daimler truck facility, which manufactures Freightliner and Western Star Class 8 truck models. The visitors received a tour of the plant and an opportunity to hear about manufacturing future needs.

In Leonmister, Mass., Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito joined local and regional government officials and area high school students on a tour of the 588,000 sq. ft. AIS plant, which manufactures office furniture. The Sentinel & Enterprise newspaper reported that Polito told the students it was up to a joint effort of government and business leaders to continue manufacturing's growth curve. "It's our jobs to make sure more jobs like this are available to you," Polito told students. "Manufacturing is a key part of growing our economy."

And the students came away impressed. "I thought it was phenomenal," said Jeremy Dassau, a Leominster High School senior told the Sentinel & Enterprise. In Wisconsin, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson visited the Miro Tool & Mfg., a contract manufacturer specializing in metal stamping, fabrication and machining, in Waukesha. The visit highlighted not just Manufacturing Day, but also the state's manufacturing month.

After touring the 42,000-sq.-ft. facility, Johnson told the employees, "The purpose of Wisconsin Manufacturing Month is to highlight how much manufacturing contributes to our state-especially how manufacturing offers well-paid jobs across a wide range of skill levels and interests. It is encouraging to see Wisconsin education officials joining state agencies and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce in spreading this message during the month."

Citing his experience in the manufacturing sector, Johnson also touted the message of workforce development. "We need to overcome the attitude that work in manufacturing is second-class and that working in the skilled trades is undesirable. All work has value and provides the dignity of earning one's own success," Johnson said. "From my 31 years as a manufacturer, working with skilled, dedicated Wisconsin employees, I can attest that careers in manufacturing are a great way to make a living."

Image courtesy: Manufacturing Day

A promising salary report

Supporting that message, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report on Oct. 2 showing that manufacturing workers earn about 9% more than the average worker, and that margin increases when other factors are taken into consideration. The report's findings include:

  • Based on hourly wages and salaries, manufacturing workers earn from 2% to 9% more on average than the overall average worker.
  • When hours worked in a week or over the course of a year are taken into consideration, the estimated premium increases. Estimated premiums using weekly or annual pay data are as high as 32%. This larger premium is because manufacturing employees work more hours per week and per year on average.
  • Both new hires and the existing workforce enjoy a pay premium in the manufacturing sector, with new hires earning a larger premium than other workers.
  • The size of the premium also varies greatly depending on the occupation. For some occupations, manufacturing workers earn less than workers overall. At the other extreme, manufacturing workers in sales occupations earn 64% more than their counterparts in non-manufacturing sales occupations throughout the economy.

"Together, this work has refined our understanding of manufacturing jobs and shown that manufacturing in the U.S. is alive and well," The Commerce Department said in a press release announcing the report.

To view the report's full findings, click here.

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Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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