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National Manufacturing Day inspires the manufacturers of tomorrow

By Brianna Liestman

The marine industry will see a large number of its manufacturing professionals retire in the next 10 years, and it is imperative that the industry does whatever it can to ensure it has an employable manufacturing workforce.

The issue is not unique to boating; indeed, as the country continues to emphasize bringing manufacturing back to the U.S., many industries are in need of young professionals eager and ready to take those jobs.

This is where National Manufacturing Day comes in. Held on the first Friday in October, National Manufacturing Day addresses common misconceptions about manufacturing jobs by allowing manufacturers to open their doors to high school students and show them what manufacturing is all about.

“One of the challenges we have … is that parents [and] schools don’t necessarily encourage kids to put manufacturing in the consideration set when they’re looking at career opportunities,” said Bill Yeargin, president and CEO of Correct Craft. “What we want to do and what companies all over the country are doing is we want to demonstrate by bringing them on-site, showing them what we do, showing them how exciting and fun it can be, [and] that manufacturing can be a great career.”

The old perception of manufacturing of the four D’s – dark, dangerous, dull and dirty – is outdated, as manufacturing today is high-tech and plants use the latest equipment, and changing that perception is a critical tool for encouraging young people to consider manufacturing.

“You can have a great career. You’re not just going to be up there putting a tire on all day long. You can move up in organizations,” said Yeargin.

National Manufacturing Day at Nautique

Nautique, a boat brand under parent company Correct Craft, has participated in National Manufacturing Day for the past two years. Nautique collaborates with its local manufacturing association – the National Manufacturers Association of Central Florida – which helps coordinate with the school board to arrange for the students to travel to the plant.

When they arrive, the students meet with key people in the company who discuss what his or her job is and how it contributes to the company. The students next take a tour through the site and visit with more individuals and see how boat manufacturing works. Lunch is provided and the day ends with boat rides on one of the two test lakes at the Nautique plant.

“We want them to leave thinking ‘Wow, I could do that. That’s interesting,’” said Yeargin. “It expands their world significantly because they come and see ‘Wow, designer. I love art, maybe I can do that.’ ‘Wow, chief engineer. I like math, maybe I can do that.’ … And I think we’re got an edge because what we do is fun. And we can take them out on a boat ride while they’re here and that really helps capture their imagination. We want to get them excited.”

Yeargin’s role in National Manufacturing Day goes beyond his position at Correct Craft. Yeargin is a member of the Manufacturing Council, a group of 25 business leaders who advise Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzer. The council focuses on four primary areas: trade/tax (the committee for which Yeargin chairs), innovation, energy and workforce. The workforce committee focuses on how the manufacturing industry ensures it has people with employable skills entering manufacturing jobs and how those people can have the training programs they need, and part of that is promoting National Manufacturing Day.

Yeargin promoted the day by contacting National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich several months ago to state the case for marine manufacturers to participate in National Manufacturing Day.

“It’s a long-term investment because a lot of these [students] are 10th, 11th, 12th graders. They’re not going to come out next week and apply for a job but we’re all working together to try to change the perception so that someday they may consider [a job in manufacturing],” said Yeargin. “We have a lot of very passionate people [at Nautique] so if we can stir the passion for these kids and we can get them focused on what we do, there’s a reasonable chance we can get them back.”

A long-term investment

Yeargin said the first year a manufacturer participates in National Manufacturing Day is always the hardest, but after that first event manufacturers will have a template for future events. The most helpful tool for Nautique was having a point person at the facility that coordinates the event with the school board and manufacturer association, who Yeargin referred to as a “champion.”

“A champion is a good word for it because they’re going to champion the day, get people internally excited about it – because you want everybody excited, upbeat and energized when the kids get here – [and] they’re going to work the schedule,” said Yeargin.

After that, it’s just logistics like making sure the key people in the company know when they are meeting with students and departments know when the students will be coming by for the tour. The partnership with a local manufacturer association is also significant, as it serves the association’s goals as well and they can provide logistical assistance.

“I strongly encourage everybody to do it. I know it just seems like one more thing to do, but this is an investment: It’s an investment in our community, it’s an investment in kids, it’s an investment in our company and our industry, and it’s actually fun. It’s really fun to have the kids here and it adds a little energy to the plant and it’s fun to be with them and see them learn,” said Yeargin.

Yeargin asks any marine manufacturer who may consider participating in 2016 to perceive National Manufacturing Day as it is: a long-term investment in your company and the industry as a whole.

“The demographics are pretty stark. We’ve got a lot of people retiring over the next 10 years and we’re going to need a lot of new people in our businesses,” said Yeargin. “The odds are very few, if any, of those kids will come back to Nautique. Some may graduate and come right back and apply and that’s fine, we’d love that, but we’re collectively working together around the country to get kids to see that manufacturing is a good thing.”

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