Manufacturing Remains Strong Industry and Career Choice

Article excerpt

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of the death of U.S. manufacturing are greatly exaggerated.

While the United States certainly faces much greater global competition than in the past, U.S. manufacturing remains the worldwide leader in terms of production output. Even in a time of high unemployment, local manufacturers say they still need skilled workers to help meet the demand for their products.

I recently heard the latest manufacturing and international business trends directly from several regional experts when Waubonsee Community College hosted the Daily Herald Business Ledger Newsmaker's Forum at our downtown Aurora Campus.

The prestigious panel included Janice Christiansen, president and CEO of J.C. Schultz/The Flagsource in Batavia. Christiansen, who also serves as chairman of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, said many Illinois manufacturers are beginning to see business improve. She called

the mood in the state "cautiously optimist."

However, even with this growth, manufacturers report difficulty finding qualified employees to join their workforce. This employment gap is due to changes in the industry requiring workers to have new skills and, unfortunately, also to an outdated perception of the manufacturing environment.

Instead of dirty floors and greasy equipment, employees are more likely to work in a highly technical setting. The panelists all agreed that community colleges provide essential education and training to ensure a skilled workforce exists, helping Illinois manufacturers continue to grow and compete in the global marketplace.

Waubonsee partners with numerous local manufacturers to provide critical workforce training. This summer, Waubonsee provided welding training for Caterpillar employees at a time when the company needed additional welders. The college's Workforce Development department regularly delivers customized training for all types of industries. Waubonsee also helps address local workforce needs through the college's occupational degree and certificate programs. …