The Future of Manufacturing and a Golden Opportunity

I recently was sent an article about the future of American Manufacturing - the good news is that it is far from dead but it is in the midst of a significant transition and in order to keep American Manufacturing alive and well our students must be prepared to adapt.

No one questions that times are changing - many of the guaranteed "good jobs" are quickly disappearing and with the rising costs of living and insurance many industries that are dependent on manual labor are turning to robotics.  This has opened up a new world of questions about education, job opportunities, and even how we tax businesses.  High School students today are faced with opportunities that were previously unavailable and are still largely unknown.  Across the board many industries are facing shortages of skilled labor and one reason why is because many students simply don't know that the opportunity is out there.

One such industry is in manufacturing and robotics - yes the robots are here to take our jobs; but robots can't program, innovate, collaborate, or take care of themselves.  What may once have been viewed as a hobby for our youth is in fact a golden opportunity - for many, future work opportunities lie in 3D printing, robotics, coding, computer sciences, cyber security, and other STEM fields. 

Here locally Lynden High School students are able to gain valuable skills on campus in robotics, computer programming, 3-D engineering and design, and a new innovation lab planned for next year. There is also the existing advanced manufacturing course in partnership with Lynden Door and the Technic Center.  Whatcom Community College has developed one of the best programs in Cyber Security around—this is a huge growing field today.  Students can receive excellent training right here in our county for high paying jobs.  The program also offers cyber security camp programs for younger students during Spring Break and summer programs so parents can get kids exposure early on. 

This presents a significant opportunity as you will see in the excerpt I have included below.

The following is an excerpt from the article "Will Robotics Save the Manufacturing Industry?" by Traci Brown; published February 2, 2017 on iq.intel.com - the full article can be found here. (Emphasis added)

GM installed the first industrial robot on their factory floor in 1961. Ever since then, manufacturers have benefited from the use of these mechanical workers that do not get tired, do not get injured, and, in some cases, are far more efficient than their human counterparts.

Robots that have taken over many of manufacturing’s unskilled jobs are now opening the door to newer, higher-paying roles. Manufacturers are aiming to use collaborative robots – or cobots to assist and work alongside human employees, syncing human ingenuity with ever-advancing robotic technology.

“We’re going to need people who understand the physical processes of translating materials from one form to another, but they’re also going to have to understand the digital mechanics behind it,” said Irene Petrick, director of business strategy at Intel, and former information science and technology professor at Penn State.

According to studies conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, the U.S. manufacturing industry will face a 2-million worker shortage over the next decade, mostly because of the current lack of technically skilled workers.

To attract more new entrants into manufacturing to fill the more immediate gap, Petrick said the U.S. needs to build an apprenticeship program and restructure internships. She pointed to Germany, which has had a robust apprenticeship program for years, as an example of what to do right when it comes to attracting and training new talent.

There is no doubt that the factories of the future will open up a host of fascinating jobs for anyone interested in robotics and STEM careers and that robots are helping to save American manufacturing.