When discussing employment in The Big M, parents, teachers and mentors often take great care to ensure that the child/student/mentee understands the rigors of a Big M job and its working environment, which might not suit a person who likes clean, well-ordered and un-dramatic workplaces. After all, a life spent in medicine can be bloody, scary, chaotic and exhausting. Yes, that’s the Big M I am referring to here. I bet you thought I was talking about manufacturing, which is also often misunderstood in terms of job environment and career opportunities.
It’s funny, but both of the Big M’s get short shrift during “career talks”. Under the heading, medicine, jobs all get lumped together even though the jobs are very distinct from each other and require different skills and temperaments. When someone says they want to go into medicine, they have many career paths to choose from: doctor, research scientist, phlebotomist, certified nursing assistant, surgeon, dermatologist, internist, EMT, and the like.
In discussing manufacturing (the other Big M) as a career, many people don’t realize that manufacturing is not just about production, it’s also designing things, developing new materials, utilizing new technologies, and creating new inventions. Manufacturing jobs include industrial designer, materials engineer, software programmer, computer numerical control machine operator, marketing experts, financial officers, project managers, and supply chain leaders. Like the myriad of medical careers available, each of these manufacturing jobs requires different KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities), and are suited to different personality types and career goals. Both Big M’s are, in fact, many, many small M’s.
It’s no wonder that children often follow in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to jobs. Most of us are really terrible at understanding and describing what different jobs look like, their educational requirements, and what they provide in the way of psychological and economic satisfaction. Because our kids can clearly see what they’re getting into in terms of their parents jobs and lives, the apples rarely fall far from the tree. But this makes the harvest too small.
In a recent report from Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, manufacturing will add approximately 3.5 million jobs by 2020. Where will these new designers, engineers, physicists, inventors and technologists come from? All of us should really think harder and do more to help young people be prepared for future work. To that end, providing more “career days” at workplaces and in schools, increasing the number of internships and apprenticeships, encouraging community participation in school-to-work initiatives, and providing teachers and career counselors with professional development about jobs and job skills seems a good starting point.
INNOVATE Hawaii (an MEP affiliate center) did its part by helping its customer, Concentris, expand their high-tech manufacturing capacity by helping them hire interns from the University of Hawaii. You can bet that opportunity gave those students a real understanding of what manufacturing looks like from a career perspective.