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Is US Manufacturing poised for a stunning comeback?


Mark Jr.
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This guy is a friend of mine. He's a "futurist", keynote speaker and an optimist. Me, not so much. But he's seen the inside of a lot of industries and gets inside the heads of the people running them, so he has a very good vantage point on direction things are headed.

 

http://www.jimcarroll.com/2011/10/the-paradox-of-optimism-manufacturing-the-build-america-mindset/

 

The premise: everybody is pessimistic about the US manufacturing sector with one notable exception: people inside the sector.

 

I’ve never encountered a sector with such a degree of optimism about the future. And believe me, I deal with virtually every type of industry out there

 

And the upshot:

 

There’s a variety of attitudes at work, some of which I spoke at IMX in Las Vegas:

 

   

  • the industry has seen tremendous opportunities for innovation through advanced technology and changes within the manufacturing process
       
  • manufacturers are learning quickly how to streamline the process, such that they can focus more on agility and such capabilities as mass customization
       
  • the rapid emergence of new methodologies such as 3D printing is providing new opportunities for transformation in process
     
  • the arrival of the ‘digital natives’ is accelerating the rate of adoption of new ways of doing things

 

What it is really leading to is a fascinating new trend that I think is just bubbling below the surface, but that I suspect will be mainstream within the year — “Build America.”

 

We'll see if this "Build America" meme emerges and gathers steam. In an election year it makes sense. But looking out past a year one wonders if the US manufacturing sector is indeed fertile ground for value oriented contrarians.

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I watched a TV program in May that argued the same thing.  Essentially, there currently isn't the labor to support it -- this is highly skilled manufacturing. It requires a lot of training and education (math for example) -- this is not push-button type jobs.

 

The employers followed in the program could not easily find labor to fill their job openings.

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This is what I don't get.  There is a large demand in this sector for employess along with the engineering sector but we give equal incentive to English majors and engineering in terms of financial aid/cost.  Why should my tax money be used to subsidize an english major who could have made the choice to be an engineering with the right incentives?  And now the President thinks it is a good idea to incentivize folks to do more of this by having debt re-payments be a % of income. 

 

Packer 

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I don't disagree with your point about government incentives.  But I'm not sure that many English majors could have made the choice to do Engineering instead.  The math skills just aren't there.  I did a lot of tutoring when I was in school, and the number of 18-22 year olds that can't do 8th grade algebra is pretty astounding.

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In 1997 I was mopping up the last of my general education classes in my final year at UCLA.  I remember being in a "discussion group" for an English class and we went around in a circle discussing what we planned to do with our degrees.  Most of the people in the circle were English majors or some other kind of liberal arts major, and it was just depressing.  They basically had no hope, and expressed little hope that a masters degree would change much for them.  I was finishing up an undergraduate math degree and I had a job lined up at Microsoft, after having two interviews a week for good jobs every week that year.

 

I feel like if you filmed one of those discussions and showed it to people once a year in high school, perhaps it would make a difference.  Do they really understand what they are signing up for?  Maybe it's like kids wanting to play in the NBA -- you can see the few people who make it, and that alone gives them hope.  But then most who try their hardest don't make it as a pro.

 

I think there is intellectual enrichment from a liberal arts degree, but they also need to make a living.  You can always go back and read those books and get more liberal education later after you've got the food lined up on the table.

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Good points, Ericopoly.

 

My feeling is that part of the problem is the short-term vs. long-term pain & gain.

 

Doing hard science degrees is more painful in the short-term than many other types of degrees, but it usually gives bigger gains later. Some people can bite the bullet and work harder because they have that long-term vision, but others just look at the short-term and take the path of least resistance.

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Re: labour shortage.  I dont buy the hogwash employers spout off about this topic.  Interview the goddamn Arts major.  If they appear to be capable of learning then hire them.  Then spend 2 years training them, give them a reason not to leave, and your fixed for the next 30 years.  Business got too conditioned to the notion of a disposable workforce.

 

Even hiring an engineering grad takes months or years of training and apprenticeship.

 

Manufacturers need to take a page out of the high tech playbook.  If your at the cutting edge you have to assume that your potential hire is going to need months or years to get up to speed.  In the old days this was more formally called an apprenticeship.  The whole system got screwed up by the likes of Neutron Jack, and his ilk.

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This is what I don't get.  There is a large demand in this sector for employess along with the engineering sector but we give equal incentive to English majors and engineering in terms of financial aid/cost.  Why should my tax money be used to subsidize an english major who could have made the choice to be an engineering with the right incentives?  And now the President thinks it is a good idea to incentivize folks to do more of this by having debt re-payments be a % of income. 

 

Packer

 

It is true that the government subsidizes English majors and engineering majors equally.  But let's not forget that in most colleges in the US, the price differential between obtaining an engineering degree versus obtaining an English degree is relatively small, and at many colleges, you pay the same amount no matter what degree you obtain.

 

So in a sense, English majors and other liberal arts majors are subsidizing the education of engineers and laboratory scientists.  After all, how much does it really cost to "educate" a liberal arts student versus an engineering student? 

 

The system is a bit screwy in that respect.

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I watched a TV program in May that argued the same thing.  Essentially, there currently isn't the labor to support it -- this is highly skilled manufacturing. It requires a lot of training and education (math for example) -- this is not push-button type jobs.

 

The employers followed in the program could not easily find labor to fill their job openings.

 

Part of the problem is that companies have gutted most of their training programs, and they don't want to spend the money on that sort of thing anymore.  This stuff isn't *that* hard to learn, and it really doesn't require a college degree--it requires strong effort and the will to get through it. 

 

The second problem is that since companies have shut most of their internal training programs down, they don't even have the expertise to be able to do it efficiently anymore...but there is probably a real opportunity for people to figure this out.

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I think much of the blame for all the kids entering into fruitless majors can be blamed on age. An 18 year old isn't mature enough to gauge what the best path for them is in life. So much of a person's desires and goals are shaped by our environment and experiences. They just haven't had the experience yet.

 

I'm young, and could tell you countless stories of high school friends who have floated around in college and are just now pursuing a useful degree in a field they enjoy, many years later and often as much as 6 figures in debt. I don't know the solution to this, although I know my solution (for me, not society), but it's definitely a problem.

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I struggled with picking a major quite a bit, I agree with what's been said in this thread.  I am graduating with my M.S. in December and had a very tough time identifying a career and major.

 

The notion of studying what you have a passion for IMO is a bad idea most of the time.  My father ran an agronomic consulting company so I majored in Horticulture and soil science - I thought the subject was very intriguing.  There are very few jobs in the career and they are low paying, my dad was probably the only person in the state making what I would call a good income! 

 

I'd say I am very frustrated by how long it took me to realize what I wanted to do.  Both my parents own their own businesses and haven't worked for someone in 30 years, I basically had no real direction.  After 4 years of undergraduate, 1 year of a M.S. in science, and finally a 1 year business program I finally have my start.  If I had been more logical and had more direction I could have been working for 2 years making 60+ and contributing to my savings!

 

I will make sure my children study a useful major.  Ultimately college has really become pre-professional training - all of the people I know who graduated with soft degree's are in sales or jobless.  None of them are doing what they are passionate about.

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I think much of the blame for all the kids entering into fruitless majors can be blamed on age. An 18 year old isn't mature enough to gauge what the best path for them is in life. So much of a person's desires and goals are shaped by our environment and experiences. They just haven't had the experience yet.

 

I'm young, and could tell you countless stories of high school friends who have floated around in college and are just now pursuing a useful degree in a field they enjoy, many years later and often as much as 6 figures in debt. I don't know the solution to this, although I know my solution (for me, not society), but it's definitely a problem.

 

When I was about 10 years old I used take apart electronics (much to the chagrin of my parents), look at the chips on the board and say that I was going to design computer chips when I grow up.  I ended up getting a BSEE and today at 39 I'm still an IC designer.  Other people who go through life aimlessly have always amazed me, because I've never know what it was like to not know exactly what I was going to do and exactly how I was going to do it.  Interestingly my son is 11 now and has been telling us for years already that he is going to be a scientist in bio-tech.  I hope he sees it through.  I guess it is OK not to know exactly what you are going to do and not yet have a plan or a direction, but to then aimlessly take out 6-figure loans seems crazy to me.  It is making a huge investment without knowing what you are investing in.  You wouldn't buy stocks that way.

 

--Eric

 

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Doing hard science degrees is more painful in the short-term than many other types of degrees, but it usually gives bigger gains later. Some people can bite the bullet and work harder because they have that long-term vision, but others just look at the short-term and take the path of least resistance.

 

I think that's too simplified.

 

I think much of the blame for all the kids entering into fruitless majors can be blamed on age. An 18 year old isn't mature enough to gauge what the best path for them is in life. So much of a person's desires and goals are shaped by our environment and experiences. They just haven't had the experience yet.

 

I'm young, and could tell you countless stories of high school friends who have floated around in college and are just now pursuing a useful degree in a field they enjoy, many years later and often as much as 6 figures in debt. I don't know the solution to this, although I know my solution (for me, not society), but it's definitely a problem.

 

You guys might be young, but you think like middle-aged parents!  ;D  I would remind you that two of the greatest innovators in American history were either home-schooled or drop-outs...Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs.  Sometimes the hardships of life create truly lasting passions and ideas...just ask J.K. Rowling.  Cheers!

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Doing hard science degrees is more painful in the short-term than many other types of degrees, but it usually gives bigger gains later. Some people can bite the bullet and work harder because they have that long-term vision, but others just look at the short-term and take the path of least resistance.

 

I think that's too simplified.

 

It is, and I don't claim it explains everything, but it is one of many important aspects, IMO. I've seen it first hand.

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I saw James Woods speak once, and he was joking that he went into drama because that's where the hot chicks were (he was at MIT).

 

You go to one of those tech trade shows in Vegas and there's hot babes everywhere pushing the latest in engineering.  However you get into a university engineering classroom and very soon you recognize that something is missing.

 

Somewhere there is a disconnect -- the techniques we use to sell engineering to adults are very different from the techniques that we use to sell engineering to 18 yr olds. 

 

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Doing hard science degrees is more painful in the short-term than many other types of degrees, but it usually gives bigger gains later. Some people can bite the bullet and work harder because they have that long-term vision, but others just look at the short-term and take the path of least resistance.

 

I think that's too simplified.

 

I think much of the blame for all the kids entering into fruitless majors can be blamed on age. An 18 year old isn't mature enough to gauge what the best path for them is in life. So much of a person's desires and goals are shaped by our environment and experiences. They just haven't had the experience yet.

 

I'm young, and could tell you countless stories of high school friends who have floated around in college and are just now pursuing a useful degree in a field they enjoy, many years later and often as much as 6 figures in debt. I don't know the solution to this, although I know my solution (for me, not society), but it's definitely a problem.

 

You guys might be young, but you think like middle-aged parents!  ;D  I would remind you that two of the greatest innovators in American history were either home-schooled or drop-outs...Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs.  Sometimes the hardships of life create truly lasting passions and ideas...just ask J.K. Rowling.  Cheers!

 

Not to mention the Wright brothers, Glen Curtis and . . . Drum roll please . . . Bill Gates  :)

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I think much of the blame for all the kids entering into fruitless majors can be blamed on age. An 18 year old isn't mature enough to gauge what the best path for them is in life. So much of a person's desires and goals are shaped by our environment and experiences. They just haven't had the experience yet.

 

I'm young, and could tell you countless stories of high school friends who have floated around in college and are just now pursuing a useful degree in a field they enjoy, many years later and often as much as 6 figures in debt. I don't know the solution to this, although I know my solution (for me, not society), but it's definitely a problem.

 

When I was about 10 years old I used take apart electronics (much to the chagrin of my parents), look at the chips on the board and say that I was going to design computer chips when I grow up.  I ended up getting a BSEE and today at 39 I'm still an IC designer.  Other people who go through life aimlessly have always amazed me, because I've never know what it was like to not know exactly what I was going to do and exactly how I was going to do it.  Interestingly my son is 11 now and has been telling us for years already that he is going to be a scientist in bio-tech.  I hope he sees it through.  I guess it is OK not to know exactly what you are going to do and not yet have a plan or a direction, but to then aimlessly take out 6-figure loans seems crazy to me.  It is making a huge investment without knowing what you are investing in.  You wouldn't buy stocks that way.

 

--Eric

 

 

I agree of course, but aimlessly taking out loans is not exactly rare nowadays. High school graduates, at least the above average ones, are expected to go to college after high school, pressured by their peers, teachers, guidance councelers, parents, etc... No matter what. Most 18 year olds don't know what they want to do, or think they know but don't. All my high school chums who wanted a student loan got it. So many people went into debt, went to college into majors they didn't love and are just now turning around to something different.

 

So it's not entirely the individuals fault, but at least in the middle class places that I grew up in the social/cultural structure makes it so it greatly influences people to do, say an english major when they know it will have no career related use, for example.

 

You guys might be young, but you think like middle-aged parents!  ;D  I would remind you that two of the greatest innovators in American history were either home-schooled or drop-outs...Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs.  Sometimes the hardships of life create truly lasting passions and ideas...just ask J.K. Rowling.  Cheers!

 

I agree, not everyone even needs to go to or finish college. Most do anyways, see my comment above.

 

And you can add Mark Zuckerberg to the list of innovative drop-outs.

 

In fact, I think I remember seeing a Forbes article that said the top University of Forbes 400 members was no university at all.

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Jobs, Gate, Zuckerberg etc... are all notable exceptions but please keep in mind that they were all very technically advanced on their own. Some people can learn by themselves but most 18 year old do not have that drive yet. I believe a good technical background gives them a solid base to build on.

 

Innovation is a totally different animal. You can't teach it.

 

Ericopoly, my eng program had 98% guys. Guess why my nick name is BeerBaron!

 

BeerBaron

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Ericopoly, my eng program had 98% guys. Guess why my nick name is BeerBaron!

 

 

I took a bunch of CS classes and it was the same.

 

Take a look at this site:

http://www.mathdoesntsuck.com/bio/

 

She sat right next to me most of the time in Fall '95 when I took Linear Algebra.

 

Strange thing though:  Microsoft managed to hire a lot of cute women.  I'm not sure from where, but they are good at seeking them out.

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Ericopoly, my eng program had 98% guys. Guess why my nick name is BeerBaron!

 

 

I took a bunch of CS classes and it was the same.

 

Take a look at this site:

http://www.mathdoesntsuck.com/bio/

 

She sat right next to me most of the time in Fall '95 when I took Linear Algebra.

 

Strange thing though:  Microsoft managed to hire a lot of cute women.  I'm not sure from where, but they are good at seeking them out.

 

Winnie Cooper was in your algebra class! Lucky you!

 

In engineering school, most were guys in my class. Majoring in electrical eng made it even worse.

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