The Relevance of Connecting Education with the Reality of Manufacturing
Lincolnton, NC, June 23, 2011- “This machine has no brain; use your own.” That was the message thirty-two middle and high school math, science and career and technical education teachers heard while participating in the recently held “Manufacturing a Future that Works-The Educator Tour.” Hosted by Lincoln Economic Development Association, the teachers, chosen by their school principals, were taken on a whirlwind tour of two of Lincoln County’s finest industries: Cataler North America and Blum, Inc. The mission of the day? To observe firsthand how today’s classroom is relevant to current manufacturing requirements and its future success as a contributing economic sector in Lincoln County and ultimately the globe. The bottom line: mathematics, reading and aptitude are necessities. Key points emphasized by both Cataler North America and Blum, Inc. during their respective presentations. To make this point more clear, members of the Industrial Manager’s Association joined the educators for lunch and the tour of Blum. Managers from: Timken, Hof Textiles, Packaging Unlimited, VT LeeBoy, Steele Rubber Products, Robert Bosch Tool Corporation, Active Concepts, Salem Industries, Anatech and Modacam, took advantage of the opportunity to discuss their operations and the educational requirements of their success with the educators. So what was the purpose of the day and what did it mean to the teachers? Any workforce cultivated out of a school system must have the necessary abilities to do applied mathematics, read comprehensively, problem solve and simply to be a dependable employee. As technology develops, indications show there will be fewer doing the jobs and getting paid more to do them. In an environment where production is critical, accuracy is essential in a company’s success. It is vitally important to educate and develop a workforce that has the ability and desire to pursue these job opportunities and to keep the momentum of manufacturing moving forward in Lincoln County. Existing industry will not stay and new industry will not go where a workforce cannot be found. With manufacturing and distribution the economic base of Lincoln County, keeping and recruiting industries to the county is essential to maintaining the quality of life enjoyed by all. In addition to emphasizing the importance of education, another message to the teachers was obviously clear; manufacturing today isn’t what it used to be. These newer operations are cleaner, more modern and very technical. The facilities and the types of jobs are not the same as many parents and grandparents remember. There are lots of really good jobs to be found in manufacturing with the potential to make very good salaries. This can be accomplished with a high-school education. An individual can begin working at an industry at a young age and if they are able to perform, can easily work themselves up the ladder of responsibility and earning potential. Higher skilled jobs are also available in manufacturing with a two-year associate’s degree and even more specialized positions utilizing four or more years of college education. The combined average earning per worker gives the manufacturing sector the highest average pay per employee in the county. As the day concluded, the educators gained new insight into the realities of manufacturing in Lincoln County. As the economy has declined, manufacturers have been forced to get smart with their operations. They are leaner, more efficient and doing it with less people. The competition for successful manufacturers and the better jobs will be incredibly stiff going forward. Only the strong will survive and in partnership with local educators, Lincoln County manufacturers expect to be contenders in success for many years to come.