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Manufacturers send message

Manufacturers across the United States are working with schools and colleges to let young people know that manufacturing jobs can be the key to lifetime careers and a high quality of life.

Earlier generations of Americans sought out manufacturing jobs. They came for the pay, the benefits and the relative security of industry.

All those things are still important features, but somewhere along the way young people came to see manufacturing sites as dirty, uncomfortable, dangerous and boring. Those perceptions were based in large part on television and movie scenes from a bygone era. Meanwhile, manufacturing had moved in many cases to climate-controlled buildings with computerized systems, 3-D printers, and the need for creative and skilled employees.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has called on businesses and educators to join with government in getting that message out.

There’s a certain urgency in getting this message out. Manufacturers are losing many of their most skilled employees as the baby boomer generation retires. A 2011 industry report estimated that as many as 600,000 manufacturing jobs were vacant that year because employers couldn’t find the skilled workers to fill them, including machinists, distributors, technicians and industrial engineers.

Nationwide, employers reported last year that skilled trades positions were the most difficult to fill, the fourth consecutive year this category has topped the list, according to the 2013 Manpower Group talent survey.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $77,505 in 2012.

If wages are not enough to lure younger workers, school officials hope that the lure of challenging and creative high-tech jobs will.

— Quincy (Ill.) Herald-Whig

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