fbpx

Latest Posts

Home

Facebook

Twitter

Search
About

Where Do Phones Come From? A Manufactured Fact of Life

The National Association of Manufacturers recently announced (July 9, 2019) “a member-driven campaign to raise at least $10 million for the newly established ‘Creators Wanted Fund.’” Among other things, the campaign aims to reduce the skills gap by 600,000 workers by 2025; increase the number of students in technical and vocational schools by 25 percent; and increase from 27 percent to 50 percent “the number of parents who would encourage their children to pursue a career in modern manufacturing.”

What might it take for the latter, in particular, to happen?

Until not long ago, Mike McGee was the System Director for Education-Industry Partnerships for Minnesota State.  For good reasons, I wound up quoting him more than most in a book of mine whose paperback version will be released on July 30: Education Roads Less Traveled: Solving America’s Fixation on Four-Year Degrees.  (Yes, that’s an unadulterated pitch.)  I asked Mike what do we need to do to persuade more young people and their parents that there are ways to have good lives without four-year degrees?

“We need,” he said, “to take advantage of applied experience. Applied learning is powerful. The images. The sounds. The chance to see and touch and operate. To see raw materials going in and finished products coming out. Tours, job-shadowing, informational interviews, and internships. Maybe apprenticeships later, but certainly internships while students are still in high school, whether over summers or released time during the school year. Work-based learning is the Holy Grail of getting folks oriented to careers they had no idea existed.”

Similarly, “If we could only get parents, I mean mainstream city and suburban parents, to better understand the skilled and high-tech nature of career and technical education and the jobs we do. The goods produced, and the systems installed and maintained. We’d have better appreciation for technical education.

“I was in a classroom,” he went on, “talking about manufacturing and held up my phone. I asked, ‘Where do these come from?’ Someone said the phone store, and I said, ‘Before that?’ Someone else said China, and I said, ‘Before that, too.’ You would have thought I had asked, ‘How many miles to Mars?’ There was stone silence in the room.

“I said raw materials, but what I really wanted to talk about was that everything we touch is manufactured. It was built. It didn’t just become. Someone builds these things. The computers in your hands are among the most sophisticated things humans have ever developed. They’re the result of engineering, and obviously there’s a lot of four-year and post-graduate work in them. A lot of Nobel Prize work in them.  But when you get right down to it [this is the moral of story], the people who make these systems work, who maintain them, and allow us to produce these goods are primarily at the technician level.”

Lindsay Benjamin, a senior systems analyst, reinforced the point when he spoke of the need, not for computer scientists, but “technologists who actually know how to operate our various systems.”

How audacious are NAM’s goals, especially that of nearly doubling the percentage of American parents in the next half-dozen years who would encourage their kids to pursue careers in (specifically modern) manufacturing?  “Quite” is the severely understated answer, especially since there is little in our recent past or current air to suggest optimism.  The bias for four-year degrees, and against anything less, as my American Experiment colleagues and I have been writing about, is that powerful.

Then, again, I don’t recall ever hearing of a trade group committing $10 million to a coordinated, multi-year effort to turn around deeply held dispositions about vital jobs and careers.

Comments

Subscribe

Categories

Upcoming Events

  • Lunch Forum with Amity Shlaes

    Location: Hyatt Regency Minneapolis 1300 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403

    Buy tickets HERE. About This Event: Enjoy our Early Bird Ticket Special through February 23rd! After this date, ticket price will increase to $30. Doors open at 11:30 AM, program and lunch begin at Noon. In Great Society, the New York Times bestselling author of The Forgotten Man and Coolidgeoffers a stunning revision of our last great period of idealism, the 1960s, with burning relevance for our contemporary challenges. Today, a battle rages in our country. Many Americans are attracted to socialism and economic redistribution while opponents of those ideas argue for purer capitalism. In the 1960s, Americans sought the…

    Register Now
  • Morning in Minnesota Breakfast Series: Moorhead

    Location: Moorhead Country Club 2101 North River Drive, Moorhead, MN, 56560

    Join Center of the American Experiment Friday, February 21 at the Moorhead Country Club for a FREE breakfast with policy fellow Isaac Orr.

    Register Now
  • 2020 Annual Dinner Featuring Sarah Huckabee Sanders

    Location: Minneapolis Convention Center Ballroom 1301 2nd Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55403

    American President: The Unorthodox Approach to Politics that Changed the World. Sarah Huckabee Sanders served as White House Press Secretary for President Donald J. Trump from 2017 to 2019. A trusted confidant of the President, Sanders advised him on everything from press and communications strategy to personnel and policy. For two and a half years, Sanders was at the President’s side, battling with the media, working with lawmakers and CEOs, and staffing the President on every foreign trip, including dozens of meetings with foreign leaders. Sanders is only the third woman and the first mother to hold the job of…

    Register Now