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Training & Education
Wednesday | 01 April, 2009 | 5:36 am

The new American dream

By John Loos

April 2009 - The name says it all. The National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C., created its Dream It Do It campaign, to encourage high school and college students to envision careers for themselves in the manufacturing sector while providing them with the resources necessary to make it happen.

Born, incidentally, from difficulty manufacturers had during the short recession in 2001 of finding enough skilled labor, the Dream It Do It campaign began in the Kansas City, Mo., area in 2005 and has since extended to Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Nebraska, Virginia and Washington.

"We've done a lot of events, and we've been visible at job fairs while also working colleges and high schools to get the word out that manufacturing is a great alternative to post-high school education," says Judith Crocker, director of education and training at Magnet, the non-profit in northeastern Ohio that sponsors the Dream It Do It campaign.

Convincing careers
According to the northeastern Ohio Dream It Do It Web site, that particular region will have to fill 60,000 jobs in the next decade. And across the country, skilled manufacturing labor remains a commodity, as the costs of four-year colleges continue to climb. Because of this, Dream It Do It focuses on the cost-friendliness of pursuing a manufacturing career, as well as the financial benefits once employed.

"Kids today really want numbers," says Crocker. "How much money am I going to make? How long do I have to go to school? And a manufacturing career is perfect for many of them. In some instances in the manufacturing field, you can pick a specific trade you're interested in and complete your education in two years instead of going through a four-year college. And you can start out making $50,000 or $60,000 right off the bat in some instances. Advanced manufacturing jobs pay an average of $54,000 a year. A lot of people, kids as well as their parents and teachers, weren't aware of that opportunity. So, that's something we definitely focus on."

Other ways the Dream It Do It campaign reaches out to young, potential workers is through its comprehensive Web site, which offers videos of "cool stuff being made," as well as video profiles of people with a variety of unique manufacturing careers. The site also has extensive event listings and a career center, which helps students craft resumes and matches them with desired careers. There's even a building game called MakerManiac, in which players use a virtual toolbox to help do everything from sending saxophone parts to a stamping machine to transform sand into silicon chips for CD-ROMs.

Overall, the intent is to present manufacturing in a fun, multifaceted and creative light and dispel the long-held misconceptions of careers in the industry as being dank, dirty and dangerous. For the northeastern Ohio segment, educating students this way is particularly integral to the survival of its manufacturing industry.

"Our big push here is growing and keeping our talent in Ohio," says Herpel. "We have great colleges and high schools with excellent programs for engineering and manufacturing. We want to keep the talent here; we don't want people to get their training here and then go off to another state. If we keep our talent here, that'll keep our manufacturers here. Because if the talent pool is here, then there's no reason for them to go anywhere else." MM

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