By Luke Frey – Sales Manager, Rees, Inc.
“Go to College. Get a degree. Do something with your life,” is what my generation grew up hearing from adults. It almost became an implication that if you didn’t go to college, you would end up working at some dead-end, minimum wage job. The type that is intended for high school students to work at during summer vacation. The myth that you need a college degree to have a successful career is something that we need to crush. The solution? Let’s get these young people educated on their options and introduce them to a new avenue: The World of Manufacturing.
My father grew up in a generation where upon completing high school most kids opted not to go to college. During that time period, the 50’s and 60’s, most small town kids either went to a vocational/trade school or picked up a job working on the family farm. My father never went to college and spent 20+ years as a press operator, as well as working various jobs involving tools and machinery. He was able to support a family of 6 and now lives on 16 acres in a log home, enjoying retirement. The point is this: he was educated at a young age how to use tools/machines and developed the necessary skills to churn out a steady career. I believe we need to emphasize the same concept today to show young individuals how they can discover a career path they will enjoy without needing a college degree.
The biggest issue today is that most kids in our public school systems simply aren’t exposed to the options that exist in manufacturing. Some high schools do offer shop classes, yes; but usually as an elective that the majority of the student body either dodges or takes because they need to fill a slot in their daily schedule. What we need is to spark the passion and excitement. I mean, we’re talking about spending your days playing with drills, big machines, saws, and even in some cases robotics, and getting paid to do so! We’re talking about the opportunity to take basic elements and use them to create something right in front of your own eyes. Manufacturing provides the opportunity to contribute to the production of goods upon which our society relies. The opportunity to make an impact on the world. And most importantly, this industry can provide a steady lifestyle while spending your time doing something enjoyable (You may notice I am really hounding on this point. I hope the message is getting through.).
I spoke with a lady that runs a stamping press at our plant and she stated that she truly enjoys her work. “I get to spend my work hours playing with this machine and listening to music all day,” she said (I’m not saying all companies have a radio playing overhead in their plants, but it certainly is a nice addition). You see, we’re not just looking for young men.. We want young INDIVIDUALS. So what I’m simply proposing is that if you are in a position to bring these opportunities to light, whether it be that you’re involved with the local school-board, community foundation, etc., please find a way to get these ideas in front of young people. Find a way to push for these programs to be more exposed, revamped, and adequately supported, from both a financial and administrative standpoint. In our county we have an Economic Development Center that uses its resources to get inside schools and invite students out to machine shops/factories to learn about the different types of machines and how they’re used on a daily basis, as well as what opportunities are out there. That, my friends, is really the only way that we are going to capture the minds of these young individuals and build a foundation for a strong future. Small business are still the backbone of America and we need to do everything in our power to recruit vigorous young people to keep that trend going.