For more than 30 years Enterprise Minnesota has worked to show policymakers, the media, and other key stakeholders that pursuing work in manufacturing isn’t a fallback option — it’s a great first-choice career.

The national media has now joined our chorus. The Wall Street Journal recently published articles about the resurgence of skilled jobs, including “How Gen Z Is Becoming the Toolbelt Generation” and “A Maine Lobster Town Sees Its Future in Shop Class,” while CNBC announced, “High school shop class is back — and it’s showing students alternatives to ‘traditional college.’”

It’s encouraging that they recognize what we’ve known all along: manufacturing jobs are high-potential careers. Positions in manufacturing require brains and specific training, they demand teamwork and dedication, they pay well from the start and offer tremendous potential growth, and they give employees the satisfaction of building something tangible each day.

These quality jobs are here to stay. Supply chain issues will continue to drive production back to the U.S. (That’s particularly true for large, high-value parts and products that are costly to ship and might not be as reliably produced in developing countries.) Plus, the wave of retirements expected in the next decade means manufacturers will need a new source of employees for years to come.

For those just catching on to the value of these careers, Minnesota’s experience in preparing the next generation of employees is instructive. The key, especially in recent years, has been partnerships between schools — both vocational/technical colleges and high schools — and the manufacturers in their communities.

These partnerships couldn’t come at a better time. Vocational and technical college programs are booming, with particularly high demand for welding/fabrication and CNC/machining training. High schools, which often ditched shop classes in the 1980s, have been renewing their commitment to career and technical education programs for years and want to boost their investments to help students prepare for manufacturing careers.

Good training programs are costly to run, but manufacturers understand that their own success depends on a steady source of highly skilled employees. Companies are eager to partner with schools, contributing the equipment students need for training and offering advice on developing course materials and curricula.

Along these lines, check out this issue’s feature about Northern Tool + Equipment’s Tools for the Trades™ program and Four Questions with Clint Link, the principal at North Branch Area High School, who’s working to help his school’s top students launch careers with local manufacturers.

Enterprise Minnesota and the manufacturers we support have always known that manufacturing will drive future economic growth and generate quality careers. We’re happy to show other states the way forward.

Return to the Summer 2024 issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine. 

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