Seeing their reluctance, I explained, “We’re going to see how things that you use — iPads, cell phones, bikes, cars, airsoft guns — are made, and how wealth is created.” (The boys perked up when they heard “guns.” “Wealth” got the attention of the girls.)
MFG Day not only offers students the opportunity to learn about the manufacturing industry but also more about where people work, the variety of careers, and how lessons learned in school apply to the real working world.
K-Form supports the aerospace and defense industries, but also helps many entrepreneurs make their ideas a reality. These entrepreneurial creations — a critter cam used on whales and a specially designed laser boresight for an M9 — really showed off the spirit of American ingenuity in advanced manufacturing and captivated our attention.
Callye Keen, design manager at K-Form, wowed us during his shop tour chock-full of CNC machines, waterjets, laser cutting and measurement systems. My kids really appreciated seeing the machines in action and getting to touch so many parts and products. They even wanted to put their hands through the chips in the recycling bin.
At the end of the tour we explored a robotic hand, a marble maze designed with gears, and a bamboo bicycle shaft created by folks at Nova-Labs, a makerspace based in Reston, Virginia.
Why is MFG Day important to celebrate?
The manufacturing industry is vital to a healthy economy. “The U.S. manufacturing’s value chain accounts for about 1/3 of GDP and employment in the U.S. For each full-time manufacturing job created, 3/4 full-time jobs are created in nonmanufacturing industries. For every $1 of domestic manufacturing value-added, another $3.60 of value-added is generated elsewhere,” says Douglas Woods, president of AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology.
It is estimated that two million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled if more young people don’t seek an education in STEM and a career in manufacturing, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte for The Manufacturing Institute.
Today’s modern manufacturing workplaces are a far cry from the images in the minds of most students, parents and educators. MFG Day events such as open houses, community forums, and facility tours are a great way to change those misperceptions and connect those making career choices with the job creators. As a MFG DAY video asks: “Why would students choose manufacturing if they’ve never even been exposed to it?”
The Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing USA initiative is aimed at boosting the strength of U.S. manufacturing through a network of public-private institutes dedicated to securing the nation’s future through manufacturing innovation, education, and collaboration. The Deloitte 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index estimates that U.S. manufacturing stands to overtake China by the year 2020 as the world’s most competitive manufacturing nation based on the quality and availability of high-skilled workers, which dictates a country’s ability to be globally competitive in advanced manufacturing.