As the manufacturing industry leads the country out of this economic downturn, I'm struck by a couple of interesting facts.
First of all, I've provided strategic communications counsel to manufacturers for nearly 20 years, and this is the first time I've seen manufacturing on the right side of a significant economic trend! So, congratulations to an industry that has worked hard to regain a competitive advantage.
But how long this trend continues may be – at least in part – up to you and me.
Despite the growth in the manufacturing industry, a recent poll conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute suggests that "mothers don't want their kids working there." Only 30 percent of respondents would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.
The "Why?" gets really interesting!
It's not because people don't think manufacturing is vital to a strong national economy – 78 percent said it's very important to our economic prosperity.
It's not because people don't think U.S. manufacturing can compete on a global scale – 60 percent of respondents cite significant advantages in technology, skilled workforce and R&D capability.
And, it's not because of lingering misperceptions of manufacturing jobs as down and dirty. To the contrary, 62 percent said they believe manufacturing requires well-educated individuals.
Rather, the issue appears to be wrapped up in opinions about the government.
Respondents singled out state and federal government leadership, individual tax rates and government business policies as their three top areas of concerns. So, while people believe we have what it takes, they're not seeing the leadership and policies required to keep the manufacturing industry healthy and successful for the long haul.
So, as you go to the polls next Tuesday, I encourage you to vote for those individuals who not only recognize the importance of the manufacturing industry to our local, regional and national success – but who will provide the leadership necessary to position us to win in today's global economy.
The U.S. still tops the charts with 18.6 million manufacturing jobs and leads the world in manufacturing value added to the GDP of $1.83 billion. But who we elect on Tuesday will play a big role in whether we stay there.
Mary Scheibel is a principal at Scheibel Halaska Inc. in Milwaukee.