Do you know “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?”

Have you heard of the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know?” We hear those words as an offhanded excuse when there is a gap in our knowledge or when we don’t know the right questions to ask. Not knowing is not a sign of weakness, but an opportunity to learn and explore and fill the gap.

Right now, the knowledge gap is manufacturing. How many of us in South Dakota know what our local manufacturers are creating or the career opportunities they have available? It may be easier to explain the opportunities for a store uptown or maybe a bank or hospital because our knowledge about and exposure to those careers is greater. If much of the public is unaware of the impact of manufacturing in our community, how is the next generation of our workforce, today's students, to know?

When South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions (SDMTS) asked eighth-grade students from across the state “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?”, they answered the question…in a video, that they themselves created, directly from a manufacturing floor! The South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solution’s “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing” video contest has brought together multiple schools, students, and youth organizations to tour and interview select South Dakota manufacturers in recent years. This contest, a growing initiative to engage, educate and excite the future generation about careers in manufacturing, is part of a nation-wide Dream It. Do It. program. This program is designed to change middle school students' perception about the manufacturing industry by giving them a firsthand look at what goes on behind-the-scenes.

If you're wondering if this program is making a positive impact on the way students view advanced manufacturing careers, the data shows an unequivocal and resounding answer: yes! Career consideration in manufacturing and positive perception of manufacturing sees almost a 200% jump in favorability from pre- to post-contest student surveys year after year. It is more important than ever for manufacturers and educators to come together and help our students explore what they don’t know and close the gap between what we think manufacturing is and what it is becoming.

Young students, our future workforce, “don’t know what they don’t know” about the amazing careers, challenges, and opportunities that await them in the manufacturing industry. It is our responsibility to help them discover as many different paths as we can. Middle school is not too early to begin looking at careers that appeal to them. The earlier students can narrow down the field, the more time they have to explore options and "try them on for size." SDMTS hopes that by providing an opportunity to get a glimpse behind the doors of our amazing South Dakota manufacturers that these bright young minds will keep asking the questions about careers in manufacturing, and keep trying to figure out what they “don’t know” about an industry that can provide them with a world of opportunity.

Get involved in the What's So Cool About Manufacturing Contest by contacting sara.wevik@usd.edu!