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A weak manufacturing sector is like having a weak immune system

Posted by Bert Maes on April 5, 2012

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Every lost manufacturing job means the loss of around 2.3 other jobs in the economy (e.g. in research and design). Manufacturing’s decline slows economic growth. While manufacturing represents 10% of the jobs in the economy, job loss in manufacturing hits nearly 30% of the economy.

There is a structural weakness in our manufacturing. Our manufacturing is not competitive. Invasion of import competition from China was responsible for between one‐quarter to more than one‐half of the lost manufacturing jobs in the 2000s.

A new report – published by The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation – states that “the loss of manufacturing is due to underinvestment in manufacturing technology support policies (…), among others.

Underinvestment in medium- and high-technology is causing a structural decline of our economy. To be able to use those technologies, we of course need high-tech skills.

So the future of manufacturing begins with education, and with the resulting high-skilled top talent.

The current situation of manufacturing is like having a weakened immune system.

Without the right system of cells you will never keep the integrity of the body intact.

The body has soldiers, members of the immune system army:  the B-cell and the T-cell. The dutiful soldiers get into action the moment any foreign substance or agent enters our body. B-cells circulate all around the body in the bloodstream, and eventually bind to the agent. T-cells circulate in the bloodstream and lymph and kill the agent. The blood and lymph systems are responsible for transporting the soldiers of the immune system.

  • The blood stream is our education system.
  • The B-cells are our high-level technologies.
  • The T-cells are our highly-skilled workers.

They are our protective shields to combat infections. If our cells are not strong enough, viruses are attacking our vital organs.

Germany, Korea and Japan have transformed to high-skilled manufacturing. They have a significantly higher share of their manufacturing output in high-tech and medium-high-tech industries than the United States; they have transformed their manufacturing industries toward more complex, higher-value-added production. They face less competition, so they increase their manufacturing employment.

More and stronger cells, a better blood stream, a stronger immune system that shows higher productivity is required for strong health.

More students, more advanced technology, better education is required for economic success.

With a strong manufacturing immune system, the economy would be much healthier.

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If you want to have a green job: get in manufacturing!

Posted by Bert Maes on September 5, 2011

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Investment in the green economy and renewable energy today will help ensure our economies stay competitive in the future. But perhaps more importantly, right now investment in the green economy is creating new jobs for millions of job-seekers.

And guess what? If you want to have a green job: get in manufacturing!

A great portion of jobs in the clean economy is in manufacturing-related segments.

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The Truth about…Youth

Posted by Bert Maes on June 14, 2011

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What motivates young people around the world today? Money? Fame? Justice?

McCann Worldgroup asked that question to 7000 young people around the world: US, UK, China, India, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Germany, Korea, Japan, Australia and Philippines.

 The same three motivations are ranked highly in every country.


And it is technology – most often their phone and laptop – which fuels the three motivations above. It is the deep relationship with technology that allows them to connect and to influence justice for a new era.

  • The need for connection and community is the most fundamental motivation for young people. They want to connect, share and broadcast through digital cameras, cheap editing software, design programs and blogging platforms.
  • For this reason: to be remembered, not for their beauty, their power or their influence, but simply by the quality of their human relationships and being loved by many people.
  • Connecting to a broader network of friends has replaced the need to belong to a tight-knit group of friends.
  • They long for new tools to broadcast, share, entertain, make new connections, beat their friends, and narrate their lives.
  • They avoid all impositions, rigid rules and structures where they can’t negotiate.
  • But these tools should come from people that really care. Youth is disgusted by corporate people doing good just to make themselves look good. From a young person’s point of view, the worst thing a brand can do us make a promise it doesn’t keep.
  • Young people want to change the world. Social media allows them to share information, to join groups on a wide range of topics (everything from corruption in politics to freedom of speech or human rights abuses) and to build networks of support and encouragement.
  • They believe technology brands like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook will solve most of the problems the word faces today, from environmental issues to food shortages, from freedom of speech to privacy and terrorism.

I am wondering how these technology brands will save the world.
Have you got insights for me?

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 5]

Posted by Bert Maes on June 10, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

PART 2: Understand the education facts

PART 3: Understand the needs of our youth

PART 4: Understand the needs of manufacturers

[FINAL] PART 5: Understand how to work together with schools

  • I notice that principals are usually committed to establish a unique school, with a sharper profile, a stronger competitive position while being the reference for the highest quality in instruction and quality learning for all students. The hope is that that results in attracting more students, more money and more working relationship possibilities towards the government, the community and where possible the international scene. That would bring more means to develop his teacher team further via continuous professional development.
  • Generally speaking, I find teachers have the need to be very valuable for the accomplishments of future generations, make a world of difference for their students, motivate them, keep them enthusiast, inspire them, being a true role model, as well as offer them the perfect start for a very secure, promising, rewarding career. Teachers usually are also interested in professional development and advancement to make their professional life easier, and give them more satisfaction in his job.
  • The private sector needs to get involved and rally together with financial support, advocacy support and program support. Schools are looking for good-will professional external agents that can offer guidance and support with forming allegiances with fitting training and professional development suppliers, providers of teaching materials, political and societal leadership, media, fundraisers or financial experts, architects and all other help for the school staff to choose practices appropriate to their needs.
  • What kind of business involvement does it take to truly make a difference in the education arena? Principals and teachers always have a clear passion, but they often lack the systems and tools to create change. To start with companies should study the challenges teachers and principals face. Companies can easily supply goods and services to schools, can make a commitment to continue funding in good and bad times, can offer support in HR, can try to attract national attention and exposure, can arrange employees to work as mentors etcetera. But it is not going to work if you don’t keep in mind three things:
    (1) you have to offer your support in (re)building the curriculum to meet the needs of our youth and the needs of local manufacturers.
    (2) business leaders need to be brought together to put pressure on governments. Serious reform requires changing policy, and that means use political resources, put pressure, push for smart policies and start political debate.
    (3) a lot of barriers are people.

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 4]

Posted by Bert Maes on June 8, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

PART 2: Understand the education facts

PART 3: Understand the needs of our youth

PART 4: Understand the needs of manufacturers

Simply put: manufacturers look for ready-trained, on-demand and enterprise-ready talent with following skills:

  • Ability to operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate high
    math proficiency
  • Ability to verify information, critically analyze, recognize patterns, analyze data sets, synthesize, creative
    problem solving and thus improve manufacturing processes.
  • Success in communicating ideas, participating on a diverse team, considering alternative perspectives,
    collaborate with other experts on a global playing field (languages!)
  • Ability to communicate in a variety of media, to participate in networks, and to navigate distributed
  • Track record of personal management, planning ahead and persistence and initiative demonstrating
    independent work and judgment
  • Management, legal and sales/marketing skills

But many companies seem to get disappointed by the quality of graduates from local training programs. In terms of competency as well as attitude (morale and timeliness).

PART 5: Understand how to work together with schools (June 10th)

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 3]

Posted by Bert Maes on June 6, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

PART 2: Understand the education facts

PART 3: Understand the needs of our youth

  • Very often young people hear that they have to love math and science to be able to follow CNC. They hear that it is challenging, “but if you work hard you can do it”. And they never hear benefits and rewards of being an engineer. The messages emphasizing the challenge of math and science skills, clearly don’t work. Many students don’t enjoy math and science enough to become engineers and find it “boring” and “nerdy”.
  • The four messages that tested besttoward appeal and relevance are
    1. Engineers make a world of difference.
    2. Engineers are creative problem-solvers.
    3. Engineers help shape the future.
    4. Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.
  • Youngsters lose their attention in av. 3 minutes. They have no patience; they want to get information fast and quick on subjects that are visual, hands-on, actual, challenging, adapted to the needs of society, based on real-life problems with practical use for the youngster’s own life. They want direct action, direct results, and a respectful, passionate and authentic teacher.
  • Technical education should encourage their creativity. “We encourage our children to be expressive and make things. Then, suddenly, when they reach age 6 or 7, we switch gears, leaving them with the impression that art class is as extracurricular as baseball and not nearly as important as, say, English or math”.
  • This generation did growing up in a period with booming wealth. At home they have everything they want, in terms of high-quality goods. They want to keep the same standards outside their home, i.e. in schools and in their jobs. Young talent expects quality in class.
  • In school and on the work floor young people are looking for self-development and a fun time. Their choice of work and their choice of education should support that goal.
  • They are very eager to learn more, to see more, to develop themselves and especially to do what they like to do. In the first place it is not important how much money they get, but what is the most crucial: how much you’ll learn, how happy you’ll be, how much respect you get from your friends’ community, how much fun your colleagues will be, how good the job matches with personal interests and values. Young people don’t want huge salaries, if that means they don’t have time anymore for their family and friends.
  • Engage students. Create flow experiences through projects and events that not only bring fun and excitement, but also help them to build social connectivity. Create tools and projects that connect and make your students the stars. Don’t sell a course, sell a community. If you can offer students a better way to belong, a better way to be significant, and a better way to connect to and impress their peers than what’s already out there, then your students will invest their time into the community, the project and the events you create for them.
  • Get students involved as early as possible in deciding what to teach. It is a big thing for teenagers to have their opinion count.  In school, that can make a big impression with small but meaningful acts. Young people are looking for platforms on which they can tell their own story.
  • On open days young talent wants to hear about the role of manufacturing and how it is important to economic development, how manufacturing and the company is global, that the industry is alive and well, what the value is of what they are learning in school, what the products are that are being made, the possible jobs and wages, the advanced technologies, alternative energy or bio processes involved, and testimonials from young employees.

PART 4: Understand the needs of manufacturers (June 8th)

PART 5: Understand how to work together with schools (June 10th)

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 2]

Posted by Bert Maes on May 31, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

PART 2: Understand the education facts

  • Pupils are avoiding technical subjects, partly because of “substandard, inadequate facilities” All too often, technical schools are dark, dirty, old fashioned and depressing places with totally obsolete training equipment. This is not the type of environment in which young people want to invest 5-6 critical years of their lives.
  • It’s all about first impressions. If the first impression of a classroom is not good, you can’t touch and move young people to follow your manufacturing classes.  Welcoming environments reduce dropout rates. ”Talent demands an environment in which it can excel. Innovation comes from talented people working in the right environment with the right tools. Give talent the resources to create”.

PART 3: Understand the needs of our youth (June 6th)

PART 4: Understand the needs of manufacturers (June 8th)

PART 5: Understand how to work together with schools (June 10th)

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 1]

Posted by Bert Maes on May 27, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

  • The countries that enjoy a strong manufacturing base have a healthier financial situation. Loss of industry makes a country lose exports, lose income and lose standards of living for the citizens. Loss of manufacturing contributes to impoverishment.
  • Manufacturing makes a bigger contribution to exports than anything else. “It still contributes to 50% of all our exports,” says Sir Alan Rudge. “The only valid way to close the trade gap is something like 20% increase in manufacturing. Anything else is pure theory. Without manufacturing the economy would be a disaster. It is already weak and it would be much weaker.
  • The most powerful nations in the world are those that control the machinery that makes the goods. Jon Rynn shows that about 80% of the world’s production of factory machinery has been controlled by what we would consider the “Great Powers”. Until the 1950s, the US had produced about 50%; we now produce less than China’s 16%.
  • Machine tools and technological improvements in that machinery are the main drivers of economic growth. No machinery industries, no sustained, long-term economic growth. Machine tools lead to the explosive economic growth of the last two hundred years. A machine tool makes the metal components that not only go into other pieces of machinery, such as cars, but are used to produce yet more machine tools.
  • The modern factory is no longer a giant building filled with hundreds of interchangeable low-skill, low-wage full-time employees. With the right skills most manufacturing operations offer rewarding, creative career opportunities involving sophisticated equipment.
  • The problem of course is that manufacturing takes time to develop and change and be able to build up the markets. In financial services the actions can be taken a lot faster. Improving manufacturing output is clearly not a short term project.
  • Do you have any other important facts we should tell the youth of the nation?

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31 parameters which shape a healthy environment for manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on May 26, 2011

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The ERA Foundation established a list of parameters which are considered to be influential in shaping a healthy environment for manufacturing.

The list is not necessarily exhaustive; nonetheless, to test the parameters and provide some initial prioritization, it was circulated as a simple questionnaire to one hundred knowledgeable industrialists and policy makers who were invited to add further parameters if these were felt to be important.

Thirty-six responses were received and a final list of 31 parameters compiled; these are organized in the priority order shown below.

A long-term high-level Government commitment to manufacturing.
A competitive exchange rate.
Low interest rates.
Lower corporation tax.
Capital depreciation tax relief.
Taxation of dividends.
Capital gains tax on companies (cf. property etc).
R&D tax credits.
Direct government grants.
De-regulation/ Better regulation.
Intellectual Property protection.
Skills – professional.
Skills – technical.
Energy costs.
Accommodation costs (including business rates).
Capital controls – including FDI.
Competition policy – mergers and acquisitions.
Foreign takeovers of companies.
Role of Regional Development Agencies.
Labour costs.
Flexible labour laws.
Bank for Industry.
Infrastructure – transport, communications, broadband.
Government procurement.
Tax incentives for investment.
Business start-up support.
Venture capital funding and tax incentives.
Science research base.
Academic-industrial collaboration.
Encouraging the young to consider working in industry.
Culture – recognizing and broadcasting the critical contribution of manufacturing to the future of the country.

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How to Support Teachers

Posted by Bert Maes on May 4, 2011

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Below is an infographic illustrating what teachers feel is most important toward improving instruction.

Absolutely essential or very important:

(1) 96% Supportive Leadership

(2) 90% Access to High-Quality Curriculum and Teaching Resources

(3) 89% Time for Teachers to Collaborate

(4) 89% Clean and Safe Building Conditions

(5) 86% a Collegial Work Environment

(6) 85% Professional Development that is relevant to Personal and School Goals

(7) 81% Higher Salaries

(8) 43% Opportunities for Alternate Careers

(9) 25% Pay Tied to Performance

We are supporting CNC Manufacturing Teachers with elements (2), (4) and (6) for effective and engaging technical education.

Source:  Jason Flom (@Eco_of_Ed) from the multi-author blog: Ecology of Education.

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Manufacturing Should Be Called: The Art of Import Replacement (and The Art of Saving Our Economy)

Posted by Bert Maes on May 3, 2011

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Jane Jacobs

So many times people are asking me: “We are living in a service-based economy. Manufacturing is not viable anymore. So what the **** are you doing there?

Well, my answer typically is:

Yes, we are living in a service-based economy: in high-income countries 75%-87% of the economic growth is generated by services. 13%-25% comes from goods-producing industries.

But the problem is: this is not creating wealth — it actually fuels our national debts.

We cannot live from services alone. Poor regions and nations typically import more than they can afford OR they fail to produce a wide, diverse, creative range of physical products and export them. Economic success is simply the result of a process of constant, new & differentiated exports.

What we should be doing is follow a very old concept invented by Jane Jacobs: the import-replacement theory. That would make us earn money… Today, we stay behind with importing stuff, losing money, governments that have to loan, and in the end can’t pay for the interest anymore, bringing us close to bankruptcy.

Also the banks still haven’t learned anything: they still have the luxury to play around with other people’s money. When they screw up, and lose millions, they don’t care. The government doesn’t mind. A manufacturing business instead gets the raw material in, and makes a finished product. “When you screw up, you pay from your own pocket,” says Franc CoenenThe economy is at risk when you count on companies that just sell ‘air’ and don’t add value.

An economy based more on making things and less on debt-fueling services would help to avoid domestic financial bubbles and add balance to the global economy,” Tom Saler adds. Only by restoring manufacturing can historic trade imbalances and high unemployment levels be expeditiously reduced and economic growth expanded to generate sufficient tax revenues to help ultimately balance the budget deficit.”

Is there a reason why we cannot be the best in the art of ‘import-replacing’ again?

The Chinese are not the problem. Jobs and industry always move to the cheapest and easiest manufacturing market.

In the 60s and 70s it was Japan, then South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong took the manufacturing lead in producing ‘junk’ products in large quantities. Those countries got better in higher quality products, the people grew richer, workers demanded higher wages and benefits and the local standards of living were raised, resulting in higher costs of production.

Now India and China are the biggest and best at this game. “But recently rising labor costs have pushed some Chinese manufacturing to places like Vietnam,” Tom Saler reports.

In her 2004 book Dark Age Ahead Jane Jacobs argued that our civilization shows signs of spiral of decline comparable to the collapse of the Roman empire. We depend on 5 pillars to stand firm, she says: family and community, education, science, representational government and taxes, and corporate and professional accountability.

So to be the industrial and innovative leader, we have to pay the costs of new technologies and the corresponding training. Being more innovative means having better people. The source of better skills and better productivity is better education and better training in science.

Our greatest resources for innovation are many young, independent, highly-skilled hands-on thinkers and creators. We can’t grow our economy if we can’t attract younger generations to our industry and if we keep forcing many of our schools to close their metal shops.

Key is the investment and involvement of companies into local technical schools. We must help our young people get interested in ‘making things’, in becoming leaders in manufacturing, in saving our economy.

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The Ideal Teacher and the Real Manufacturing Opportunities

Posted by Bert Maes on February 4, 2011

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Just yesterday I have been in France at what is called the WorldSkills France competition finals (Olympiades des Métiers), a big feast honoring young skilled craftsmen in industrial trades, including the trade of advanced manufacturing machining.

The hundreds of young students I have seen competing there were working so hard, so motivated, so energized and they were so proud of what they were creating. We actually made a video on the event that I will post later on when editing is done.

I was especially honored to also meet a machining teacher with 20 years of turning and milling practice and 24 years of teaching experience. For me he seems to be the ideal CNC teacher:

  • He doesn’t have a binder under his arm: he detests the teachers that focus all resources into book theory and do not offer a real hands-on degree.
  • He takes the time and has the kindness and patience to teach the practical basics in blueprint reading, engineering, design, metallurgy, materials, speeds and feeds, cutting tools, programming, math, safety, and communication. His students receive the breadth training that is required to sculpt a well-rounded, versatile machining specialist… far more than a button pusher, parts changer or a trained monkey at a CNC machine.
  • He battles constantly to always have access to the latest machining equipment. The world is changing at a dramatic pace and today’s young people are used to constant change and challenges. In order to attract them, the machining school department must continually develop to offer the tools and practices that show a future.
  • He lets students develop their own metal artwork for their final exams. He requires his students to be creative and to make anything they want to. Together they develop great projects. They never experience boredom.
  • He takes them outside the school to see metal pieces perform in the real world: planes, cars, medical devices, musical instruments, jewelery, all kinds of sports, and so on. That builds self-confidence and passion.

This guy makes schooling and the trade very interesting. Then, there is no end to the students’ engagement. He plants seeds for cultivating those young people to advance in the machining trade. His students even cried when he announced to leave his previous school. This teacher makes advanced machining manufacturing a fascinating career choice. All of his students were hired quickly.

This story is only successful because of the hard work of this teacher, school management, parents, and students. I hear many people say that young people do not want to work hard in school anymore: they take the route of least resistance; they want to make money with limited effort in no time. In this age obtaining information, communication, merchandise, food and practically anything is effortless at the touch of a button. So it should be the same for money, they think.

True, probably money can be made much faster by not pursuing a manufacturing career. But… who are the heroes of our economy? The talented, rough and intelligent individuals that start a manufacturing business in their garage and turn out amazing products. Computerized equipment, CNC machines, CAD/CAM, lean processes and the internet have greatly enhanced manufacturing job satisfaction, while reaching an audience they never could have 10 or 15 years ago.

An inspiring example is the story of Mike who started his own manufacturing company at the age of 15.

The opportunities to work, make money and grow in the metal manufacturing field are real.

  • Metals were one of the few durable goods where manufacturing increased in 2010. Employment in fabricated metal products manufacturing increased by 4.6%.

But those manufacturing companies have difficulties in recruiting the talented young machining experts having the right skills for their high-level job openings. All over France, school machining departments are being closed as they don’t get sufficient enrollment.

Considering that millions of people are actively seeking work and still cannot obtain employment and considering that in twenty years 90% of the current machinists are retiring, it is now more important than ever to do start better teaching with better equipment and better marketing for CNC manufacturing!

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What would make a big difference in improving manufacturing education?

Posted by Bert Maes on January 31, 2011

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The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning recently conducted a public opinion research. One of the questions was: “What would make a big difference in improving science education?

The results speak for themselves, and in my view can be generalized to CNC manufacturing education:

  • more resources for labs, better equipment and more supportive materials,
  • more specialized training for teachers
  • and more time for adequately teaching the subject to fully engage students in a strong program.

42% of people surveyed say that classrooms do not have the resources and equipment needed for STEM education…

>> Dear reader: what is your opinion on this???


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If students struggle with science, the country is in deep…

Posted by Bert Maes on January 26, 2011

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Most American students aren’t “proficient” in science, according to the new National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report.

  • Only 34% in fourth grade (9-10 years)
  • 30%  in eighth (13-14 years)
  • and 21% in 12th grade (17-18 years) scored proficient or higher

That means that less than one-half of students are demonstrating solid academic performance and competency in science.

Forty percent of students in twelfth grade lack basic skills in physical science, life science, and Earth and space sciences. Only one percent of high school seniors have the advanced science knowledge and skills that lead to careers in science and technology.

Science helps students further their understanding of our world, enabling them to connect ideas across disciplines and making them better problem solvers,” David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board (which oversees policy for NAEP), commented. The state of science education is troubling because, increasingly, making personal choices, like whether to vaccinate children or how much energy to use, requires an understanding of science, educators say. Some are convinced that science is the basis of almost everything. President Obama once said: “the problems we face as a nation are, at root, scientific problems.

But it seems that we are not focused enough on science and especially not on more advanced subject matter. We give less intense attention to advanced content regarded as fundamental by many other countries. We might pay a very high price as a society for that lack of focus.

Is it surprising than that we offshore labor?

High-tech American companies opting to hire offshore labor are doing so because of a shortage of skilled workers, not anymore a desire to save on labor costs, a new study by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business says.

Most American high-tech/telecom companies engaged in offshoring say the domestic shortage and scarcity of skilled workers — not cost cutting — is the primary reason why they move some job functions overseas.

There they can find the technical profiles in research and development, as well as administrative and sales/marketing specialists. Looks like we are losing our science and technology service jobs as well… Our service jobs will be offshored next, expert says in new book.

Then what??

And what do you think about this?? The report “An American Imperative: Transforming the Recruitment, Retention and Renewal of our Nation’s Mathematics and Science Teaching Workforce” found that students who face economic disadvantages are more likely to have unqualified or minimally qualified math and science teachers…

Conclusion: Science and Manufacturing educators need every scrap of support!

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Manufacturing is dead. Long live manufacturing!

Posted by Bert Maes on September 16, 2010

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CNC machinists have got difficult times. Although they are in general paid relatively generously (close to $20/hour), there are fewer job openings available for those whose formal education stopped after high school.

It’s not that jobs aren’t being created in manufacturing – they are. But they are fewer in number. Landing such work need certification after rigorous and lengthy course work.

Those manufacturers that are hiring again, demand advanced technical skills, linked with lean manufacturing techniques and labor-saving technology. The employers complain that they can’t find enough qualified workers, although the unemployed often want to find work.

Consider, for instance, the job of a machinist. The basic job function hasn’t changed: machinists produce precision metal parts. But the drills, lathes and mills and other tools they use on the modern factory floor are almost always computer numerically controlled — CNC for short — and only as precise as the instructions provided by their operators.

As a result, machinists today not only need to be able to write basic computer programs — they’re expected to be able to troubleshoot those programs, and rewrite them if necessary, if they encounter problems during production. They’re massively better educated, massively better trained and massively more productive today than they were back in the old days.

When you spend millions of dollars on a machine that does four things, and improves your productivity and accuracy, you can’t just hire somebody out of high school who can’t even do the computations to do the setup. You want someone highly skilled, very technical, very knowledgeable.” (Reuters)

To help bridge that cap, groups like the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, the National Association of Manufacturers and America’s largest machine tool manufacturer Haas Automation are working with schools around the world to develop programs to give workers the skills and certifications employers want today.

The Lorain County Community College for example offers an intensive, four-month program called “Transformations” that gives laid-off workers the core technology skills they need to find a job quickly. This program has been having a lot of success with laid-off workers like Mark Lute, a 48-year-old electrician who lost his job, after 22 years. Lute is now enrolled in a two-year program, where he’s learning wind turbine maintenance and automation robotics.

A second example: CNC machine tool builder Haas Automation has long been aware of the need for skilled CNC machining specialists, and the looming skills gap resulting from the decline of manufacturing training programs. As part of its service offering, Haas invests in strategic partnerships with all types of learning institutions to offer students a way of gaining production floor experience before entering the real world. Worldwide, more than 1500 high schools, colleges and universities participate in the so-called “Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC)” network.

Targeting inspiring schools with dedicated teachers searching for innovative technologies and the most effective way to teach, the HTEC program not only helps train skilled workers for modern industry, but also supports in developing the future owners and supervisors of operations with the right self-management skills, teamwork skills and -with frequent international student and teacher exchanges- international cultural awareness is covered as well.

From my experience in working with principals, teachers and students the past half decade, I know it is very difficult to get kids motivated into wanting to have careers in manufacturing given the fact that in every family there’s probably been some brother, sister, uncle, father, mother who has experienced a job loss and doesn’t speak kindly of the industry.

But think about it: can you build stuff as creative as you want, in those new jobs below $15/hour in service industries like retail sales, food preparation, waste removal, or health care?

Main source: James B. Kelleher (September 2010) SPECIAL REPORT- Blue-collar, unemployed and seeing red.

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Strong Manufacturing = Healthier Financial Nation. A study from Belgium.

Posted by Bert Maes on September 8, 2010

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Over the past 40 years Belgium lost 17% of its manufacturing activities, a prominent Belgian economist finds, in collaboration with several entrepreneurial organizations (the presentation of the study – in Dutch). Only the United Kingdom is doing worse. The future of both countries in terms of competitiveness doesn’t look bright.

Change % Manufacturing Since 1970

Is deindustrialization/demanufacturing a normal natural process giving way to the services era? Not entirely, the study shows. Many countries still rely heavily on manufacturing. The simple logic is this: when a country loses its manufacturing base, the service sector gets fewer chances to grow.

The manufacturing sector has to be preserved, simply because the basic creative activities in the industry are a must to keep the rest of the economy going, according to the study. The financial crisis has revealed the weakness of our services economy. Loss of industry makes a country extra vulnerable. The country loses exports, loses income and has to rely on domestic demand that has to be stimulated by the government.

Maybe the most fascinating observation from the study is that the countries that enjoy a strong manufacturing base, have a healthier financial situation. There is not a chance that a country can get out of its recession and generate renewed wealth without substantial contribution from its manufacturing sector. Loss of manufacturing contributes to impoverishment.

The study states that Germany should be Belgium’s benchmark example with: lower labor costs, a more flexible labor market (less conflicts between employers and employees), less complex administration, a real export policy, attracting (foreign) top companies that have a urge to innovate and internationalize, focus on R&D support, more collaboration with the educational sector etcetera and the fact that the Germans unite behind the notion of manufacturing export. The government, business community and workers all see their future in global business and they work for a common purpose more often than not.

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Manufacturing Machinist: 1 of the 7 Jobs Companies are Desperate to Fill

Posted by Bert Maes on September 6, 2010


Source:  Gee, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to close all those shop classes after all? By Ryan Pohl on his blog “Change the Perception – Devoted to Building a New Respect For Manufacturing“.

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Manufacturing education IS economic development

Posted by Bert Maes on August 30, 2010

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Based on thoughts of Ryan Guina

There is no way to determine the absolute value of manufacturing education – it depends on the degree you get, how you use it, how productive you are, the exact career field you are in, the skills you bring to the table, the ability to continue learning, and many other factors.

Anyhow, many sources and research clearly shows that training and graduating in manufacturing and engineering usually means higher pay. As such manufacturing education IS economic development. “For a nation education is clearly as important as economics.” (Ralph W. Tyler)

  • Graduating, acquiring a diploma – no matter what field – adds an average additional income of €6000/$7600 per year. That brings increased investments and spending, generating tens of thousands extra jobs every year, and hundreds of millions of extra tax revenue per year. If all the students who drop out over a decade were to graduate instead, they would earn an additional $3 trillion in wages. That amount of money would do a lot to make the economic recovery that is now shakily underway sustainable in the years to come.
  • Manufacturing workers earn between 23% and 30% more than the average wage for the private sector workforce. Why is that? A lot of workers were pushed out of the industry due to automation and advanced manufacturing methods. The guys who can survive the automation and robot trend are more technically capable than anyone else. So they are paid very well.
  • Even if you do go to college, learn a trade in the summers. You’re likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information systems or low-level creative.” (Mathew Crawford in his book Shop Class as Soul Craft)

For example, Ryan Guina reports on one of his friends, an electrician in his 40’s, owning a small business focusing on residential and small commercial electric installation and repair jobs, employing a couple of people and making €200,000 a year. The best part is his job will never go away. People will always need electricians and mechanics.

But these kinds of jobs – electrician, plumbers, mechanics, CNC machining specialists – require

  • passion,
  • independence,
  • being a ‘contrarian’,
  • hard work,
  • challenging what is,
  • creativity to solve problems in ways that haven’t been done before at lower costs,
  • planning constructively in association with others,
  • willingness to share power collectively,
  • putting in that extra effort,
  • and a continuing desire to learn and improve.

Many schools don’t seem to teach that…

We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” (Tyler Durden, Fight Club)

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Prospects for Manufacturing Growth Next 16 Months

Posted by Bert Maes on August 27, 2010

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We can expect continued growth in manufacturing of a fairly modest 5% or so this year and next year — which is stronger than the overall economy. A couple of things are driving that: One is exports have done well and we expect to continue to see growth in exports. Second, there is some recovery in investment in capital goods. It’s mostly metals inventory rebuilding and replenishing factories for equipment that has gone beyond its useful life. It’s not really adding to productive capacity; it is productivity improvement and simply replacement. Investment in equipment and software is growing, but still far below 2007/2008 levels. The only way to get faster growth in manufacturing is to bump up the overseas export share.

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McKinsey: How to compete and grow: a guide to manufacturing priorities

Posted by Bert Maes on August 18, 2010

The McKinsey Global Institute has analyzed the performance of more than 20 countries and nearly 30 sectors, including the African continent, on what the best government manufacturing policies are to make those economies compete and grow during and after the current recession.

According to those studies, the best manufacturing policies first of all depend on two criteria

(1) Whether you live in a low-income, middle-income or high-income country;

(2) Whether you operate in an innovative start-up industry or in a mature sector.

(1.a.) The manufacturing situation in HIGH-INCOME economies
(in total 54 countries including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Austria, Belgium, Denmark,
Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and the US):

  • Between 1995 and 2005 services generated ALL job growth in high-income countries, and between 75%-87% of the economic growth. Only 13-25% came from goods-producing industries. Between 1985 and 2005 manufacturing contributed 0,3% to growth, services accounted for 2,2%. The employment powerhouses and growth sources were retail trade, restaurants, construction and those services that bring process innovations. Some predict a substantial employment growth in IT &  telecom, private equity, construction and environmental services by 2014, as well as car & automotive manufacturing and mining, oil & gas machinery manufacturing.
  • These are of course statistics from 2005. Since then the situation changed drastically. The oversized financial industry did hurt the broader economy the past years. At this moment “making goods is — with exceptions — more productive than providing services, and rising productivity is the fundamental source of prosperity… a major nation must be able to maintain a balanced current and trade account over time, and goods are far more tradable than services. Without something to export, a nation will either become over-indebted or forced to reduce its standard of living,” says economist and author Jeff Madrick. Since there is no economy that would have sustained rapid growth without substantial contribution from its industrial sector, at this moment, increased growth depends on the performance of manufacturing! Today manufacturing is doing more to lead us out of the recession than any other industry.

(1.b.) Manufacturing situation in MID-INCOME countries
(In total 93 countries including Argentina, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Hungary, Jordan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Russia and Turkey)

  • 85% of net new jobs comes from service sectors, including utilities, broadband telecommunications, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants, finance and insurance, construction, IT and software activities, R&D, digital media etcetera.
  • But the manufacturing industry (including pharmaceuticals, radio-TV-communication equipment, motor vehicles, cloth and apparel, food, drinks, tobacco, oil, coal, basic material, agriculture and forestry) contributes 46% of all growth (Russia for example 39%, China 55%). So in these countries the performance of expanding industrial sectors is critical to the economy.

(1.c.) Manufacturing in LOW-INCOME countries (61 countries including the African continent, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Afghanistan, India and Nepal)

  • Educating has to be one of the highest priorities for public policy, to deliver the necessary trained business and scientific talent. Truly competing and winning in the long term will require local know-how and talent. Local capacity-building programs, attractive career paths, and apprenticeship opportunities will be critical to achieve sustained growth.
  • The other highest priorities include infrastructure development (transport, fuel, water, energy, port, airport, roads) and regulation, including a strong stable government, upholding the rule of law, creating a more predictable business environment. The current poor performance in these fields complicates the importation of equipment and materials, and makes the overall manufacturing costs very high.
  • Expanding manufacturing, however, increases exports and reduces the need the need for imports, easing these countries’ current-account deficits. So precisely manufacturing is essential to make continued investments in infrastructure and education.

(2.a.) Best government actions in MATURE manufacturing sectors

  • After being highly dynamic and generating growth to other sectors, the semiconductor industry today employs only 0.5% of the workforce. The last 15 years semiconductors didn’t generate sustained growth – public investments have led to very low returns.
  • There is a similar situation in the cleantech solar/wind power and biomass industry. The global markets in this area are already subject to heavy competition and as a result this market will not bring enormous job creation. The sector will remain too small to make a serious difference to economy-wide growth. New jobs in this green technology production is more likely to come from improving building insulation and replacing obsolete heating and cooling equipment.
  • Mature manufacturing markets best benefit from expanded infrastructure construction (roads, ports, high speed telecommunication, research labs, parks and training centers), improved access to capital, support in R&D through universities or other research funds, reduced trade protections, export assistance, faster and streamlined government regulations, enhanced access to raw materials and logistical effectiveness, focus on quality of education and technology-driven retraining to acquire a skilled workforce – at the right cost – that can continuously deliver new products for new generation of technology, in low-cost production.

(2.b.) Best government actions in INNOVATIVE START-UP industries

  • Protecting local producers has helped create local industries in a sector’s early development phase, but it led to low productivity and higher costs to consumers, with limited growth. Removing trade and investment barriers at the right time, with exposure to global competition, significantly improves performance and productivity.
  • Innovative high-quality ‘original technology’ industry start-ups should get government contracts, low-cost loans for investment, reduced raw materials/energy/logistics costs, long term large government investing in channeled R&D funding and expanding necessary education, support from private companies and university research to develop new technologies together, and attracting smaller companies to form clusters, which help create a sustainable pool of talent and expertise. But remember, this only works in brand-new industries.

Conclusion: designing and implementing manufacturing policies to improve growth and competitiveness are not easy. Taking into consideration the maturity of the country and the maturity of the industry will boost the odds of policy changes having a positive impact.

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