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Small Manufacturers Make a Big Difference

Small Manufacturers Make a Big Difference

How do we reach the next generation, change their perceptions about manufacturing, and let them know about available career opportunities? 

Manufacturing Day and other initiatives are critical.  Equally so is the time those of you in industry devote year-round in your communities, which I believe can add up in a big way in reaching students and inspiring them to consider manufacturing careers.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in Career Day at Robert Frost Middle School in my hometown of Rockville, Maryland.  I was with a whole classroom filled with eager seventh graders, being taught by my eighth grade son’s favorite former teacher (you know who you are JC!).  Of course, I had the slot right after lunch!  What could I say to them about my career?  How could I inspire them?

I taught them about today’s manufacturing.

In doing so, I used every trick up my sleeve to leverage how children are used to receiving information in our present-day technology-rich environment.  This included infographics, videos, and an HQ-style trivia game (sans the cash prize, but with a few personally supplied “prizes” complete with the telling of the item’s Made in the USA story).

I shared where I work, a little bit of my story on how I got here, what I do, some manufacturing 101, and the exciting, real career opportunities for them. 

History Lesson

I started with a little history and shared the NIST MEP infographic about Alexander Hamilton and his Report on the Subject of Manufactures, which changed our country and put us on the path to economic prosperity and sovereignty. 

Manufacturing Trivia

See how you’d do with a few fun facts, like the ones I shared with the class.  The answers are at the end, so please don’t peek!

1.How many jobs are there in manufacturing?

a.  500,000
b.  5 million
c.  12 million+

2. Manufacturing contributes more than $2 trillion to the U.S. economy. 

True or False?

3. What was the average salary in 2016 for manufacturing workers?

a.  $45,000
b.  $50,000
c.  More than $60,000

Learning about manufacturing doesn’t have to stop there.  A recently updated Facts About Manufacturing infographic has even more interesting industry data.

Did this one-hour lesson work?  As I sifted through the dozen or so thank you notes I received (oh my gosh, they wrote actual thank you notes – on paper, with pencils!), one particular note has stayed with me.  In the words of a very smart seventh grade boy:

“Thank you very much for teaching and showing us about the importance of manufacturing in the U.S.  You really showed the meaning of how even the smallest manufacturers play a BIG role in helping our society and your organization makes that happen!!!”

Many of you have done these types of STEM-related outreach efforts to tell the story of manufacturing, the ways in which manufacturers make great contributions to communities across the country, and the wide array of good careers available.  These efforts really do make a difference in changing perception and inspiring the next generation of manufacturers. 

 

(Answers: #1 c; #2 True; #3 c.  Sources: https://www.nist.gov/mep/manufacturing-infographics)

About the author

Zara Brunner

Zara Brunner is the communications director at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Office of Advanced Manufacturing (OAM). Zara received a B.A. with honors in political science...

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