If you ask most students and parents about their thoughts on manufacturing, they will bring up archaic images of a lackluster industry, with assembly lines and low-skilled workers. According to SME, a national manufacturing organization, nearly one-quarter of parents surveyed do not feel that manufacturing is a well-paying profession; furthermore, more than half of the survey respondents do not see manufacturing as an exciting, challenging or engaging profession.
As representatives of two of the largest training programs for manufacturers in the San Diego region, we can attest to how these myths damage our ability to attract talent and students to a crucial driver of our workforce and economy. On average, manufacturing employees in San Diego earn $97,793 per year, well above the national average of $78,000. In San Diego, manufacturing employs more than 108,000 workers, nearly 15 percent of our regional workforce — meaning there are a plethora of diverse career opportunities to choose from.
On Oct. 7, San Diego will take part in National Manufacturing Day. The region has another opportunity to address misperceptions around problems facing manufacturers across the country. It will be one of the largest Manufacturing Day events on the West Coast. It’s a chance to inspire the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow by exposing them to manufacturing facilities to see what a career in modern manufacturing looks like. It’s also a chance to address a major challenge facing local manufacturers: the skills gap.
Companies like Solar Turbines Inc. and Taylor Guitars are finding it more challenging to identify and hire the workers they need. Two programs that are addressing this issue are San Diego City College’s Centers for Applied Career Technologies program and the California Career Pathway’s Trust.
The CACT program graduates about 600 a year into the local manufacturing labor market. It is designed to train students for manufacturing careers, while at the same time working with local companies like Johnson Matthey to develop strategies to strengthen the workforce programs for their students.
California Career Pathway’s Trust is a grant program run by the state of California to create job shadow opportunities for high school students across disciplines. San Diego has actively used this grant in 2016 to connect thousands of students with local manufacturers. The East County Economic Development Council is charged with executing this program in partnership with Junior Achievement of San Diego County, ensuring more than 400 students will experience job shadow opportunities.
Opening Their Doors
More community participation is needed to elevate manufacturing careers. Many employers, including General Atomics, GKN Aerospace/Chem-Tronics Inc. and Honeywell, are providing career opportunities for San Diegans. During Manufacturing Day, more than 40 companies across the San Diego-Tijuana region will open their doors to the public, giving many people not only a glance into San Diego companies but a look at a potential career.
We will need to continue to work together year round to ensure our manufacturing workforce is properly trained for their careers. Our economy depends on it.
More information about Manufacturing Day can be found at sdmfgday.com.
Trudy Gerald is Director of the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies and Dean of School of Arts, Humanities, Communications and Telecommunications at San Diego City College.
Jo Marie Diamond is President & CEO of the East County Economic Development Council.