Manufacturing The Business of

Manufacturing: Industry Must Invest Time in Developing Future Workforce

Picture of a man holding a hardhat while standing in a manufacturing warehouse

MACF Attracts Students with Tours and Henry Graeber Scholarships

Manufacturing Day, celebrated on the first Friday in October, is an opportunity for manufacturers to place a spotlight on their growing, thriving industry and dispel an archaic notion that manufacturing is a dirty, dying and limited part of the nation’s economy.

Fast forward almost 10 years since the special day began, and here in Central Florida it is now a monthlong celebration that predominantly includes industry-led tours for students to highlight the opportunities for growth and success. Why is the Manufacturers Association of Central Florida (MACF) focusing on students? The short answer: Manufacturing is a fast-growing industry facing a severe workforce shortage.

Long before the impact of COVID-19 on our nation’s employment figures, the manufacturing industry had struggled to recruit young people. The long-held perception of manufacturing as unpleasant work has often kept parents, teachers and school counselors from presenting it as a viable career pathway for students.

Currently, there are about 388,500 industry jobs with an average salary of $61,739 in Florida. The goal of Manufacturing Month is to open students’ eyes to the possibility of a long-term, high-wage manufacturing career whether they want to earn a degree or enter the workforce immediately.

In 2017, MACF founded the Henry Graeber MACF Memorial Scholarship fund, which has provided dozens of Central Florida students with financial support so they could continue their education. MACF works closely with its educational partners to select scholarship recipients who show promise and passion in the manufacturing industry. The fund is named for the late Henry Graeber, who served on the MACF board and supported manufacturers in recruiting and supplying talent to the Central Florida workforce for almost 20 years.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, manufacturers, like other businesses, have had to be flexible and creative with their recruiting strategies. The No. 1 priority is the safety and protection of their employees, so companies have turned to virtual plant tours, speaking engagements and the Adopt-a-School program to reach students. The benefit of going virtual is that companies can reach more students than ever before. Last year, through our virtual plant tours, MACF alone was able to connect with more than 600 students, and these online tours can be downloaded and used in classrooms all year as part of curriculum.

The truth is, the jobs are out there and scholarships are available. More than anything else, manufacturers need to invest time into developing their future workforce. This can happen through facility tours, apprenticeships and engagement with students.

Every year, hundreds of Central Florida students are given the opportunity to tour manufacturing facilities, but we cannot stop there. Continuing that engagement, allowing them to explore all career paths in manufacturing, and catching and holding their interest needs to extend well beyond the month of October. It must be a continual investment of time into educating students about the lucrative career possibilities of the manufacturing industry.

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About the author

Picture of Christian Davidson, chief operating officer for the Manufacturers Association of Central Florida

Christian Davidson

Christian Davidson has 15 years of combined experience in the manufacturing industry and with the Manufacturers Association of Central Florida, where she is chief operating officer. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and a Central Florida native.

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