Emerging Leaders

Change the Perception of Manufacturing—Host or Sponsor an MFG Day Event

MFG Day events often serve as the first step toward a manufacturing career for curious students. Here's why you should host one.
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How long have we all been lamenting that the perception of manufacturing needs to change to attract the next generation of workers? “Perception is the problem,” we say. “Manufacturing isn’t like it was 40 years ago. It’s cleaner, modern and high tech, but no one knows!” Speaking from experience and statistical surveys, Mfg Day is one highly effective way to change the perception of manufacturing among young people, parents and educators. For this reason and others, MFG Day is a worthwhile rallying event to joyfully jump into, and I can tell you first-hand how rewarding it is to participate.

Our company has been hosting an MFG Day event since 2015, and here’s why: It works. I watch the faces and often see eyes widen and something resonates and “clicks” among our Mfg Day visitors. In addition to a tour, we give a presentation about how our software product relates to things and activities they interact with each day and those that inspire them, such as eating utensils, guitars, skateboards, race cars, dental appliances, rockets, jets and movie sets. You and I know the list includes virtually every tangible thing, and that’s what often sparks the proverbial “light bulb” of understanding and excitement in Mfg Day event guests. For the students, the new knowledge broadens their career possibilities. They can “see” themselves engaged working at a programming station or operating a machine or even designing a brochure. We relay that most every career choice can be applied to manufacturing, whether it’s in engineering, machining, accounting, graphics, training and more. We recently hired a videographer here serving our Mastercam marketing, training and user experience departments. Who would’ve thought even 10 years ago that a software company would need someone full time in that function?

But it’s not just me observing the shift. According to a 2016 survey by Deloitte, 84 percent of students who attended Mfg Day events emerged “more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are interesting and rewarding.” While fresher stats are warranted from last year, these numbers from a few years ago are encouraging. Roughly 600,000 people attended Mfg Day events and about 267,000 of them were students. That means that almost 225,000 students walked away from their Mfg Day event with a more positive perception of manufacturing, according to Deloitte’s findings. Plus, 71 percent of student attendees said they “were more likely to tell friends, family, parents or colleagues about manufacturing after attending an event.” Going a little deeper, 64 percent of surveyed Mfg Day student event attendees said they “were more motivated to pursue a career in manufacturing.” Based on the 267,000-student attendance figure, that’s possibly 171,000 new members in the manufacturing workforce. Thank you.

While the figures documented in the Deloitte surveys are relatively small compared with the 3.5 million U.S. skilled manufacturing jobs Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute project will need to be filled between now and 2025, it is a beginning. It’s an ambitious undertaking to change the public’s view of manufacturing to help address the skilled labor shortage. The concerted effort will likely take at least a decade, if not longer. But let’s not let the difficulty dissuade us. Persistent commitment is all that’s required of us. While it’s a lofty goal, the proposition of MFG Day is quite simple. It all starts with you—whether you are affiliated with a manufacturer, a school, or other related organization—to open your doors or join others at an offsite event to show students, parents and educators what today’s manufacturing is all about.

This year, Mfg Day 2019 will be held on Friday, Oct. 4, but any day can be Mfg Day. How you participate needs to work for you, so choose a date for your convenience. To be an “official” MFG Day event, here are the simple requirements. The event:

  • must consist of a tour of a manufacturing facility, office, innovation center or other site; a creative student-invite type of event at a manufacturing or manufacturing-supporting site (e.g., design office, software company, and so on); a school event about manufacturing; a manufacturing-related jobs fair; a manufacturing-related career day event; or manufacturing product expo or similar event.
  • must be open to students, parents and/or educators.

I encourage you to visit mfgday.com. There is a wealth of helpful resources and guidance about participation, hosting and supporting the cause. Please let’s do what we’ve been saying needs to be done by “somebody or some organization,” and that is to change the perception of manufacturing. That “somebody” and that “some organization” is you and your company.

About the Author

Meghan West


Meghan West

Meghan earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Bentley College and an MBA in management from Hawaii Pacific University. She grew up around CAD/CAM, gaining valuable job experience inside and outside of the manufacturing industry before officially joining CNC Software in 2009, as operations manager. In 2015, she was named president of CNC Software.