In case you missed it, Oct. 7 was “Manufacturing Day” in the United States, designated to celebrate modern manufacturing and educate and inspire the next generation of manufacturers. Louisville-based GE Appliances seized the opportunity to showcase its high-tech, fast-paced manufacturing facility to 4,500 Jefferson County students and highlight the career opportunities that today’s manufacturing industry provides – even though the company generally doesn’t allow anyone under 17 or 18 in the plant.
GE engineered a virtual field trip for the students that demonstrated its 3D printing in action in one of the state’s largest rapid prototyping centers, and took them through the company’s production facility for bottom-freezer refrigerators and the state-of-the-art training facility that are all located on GE’s 900-acre Appliance Park campus in Louisville.
“Seeing is believing,” said Bill Good, vice president of manufacturing for GE Appliances. “To get students excited about manufacturing, they need to see how we manufacture today. With the virtual field trip, we can expose more students than ever before to how manufacturing is more than just a job, it is a career where team members collaborate to solve problems, skills are constantly refined and those wanting to advance can receive training to continue to excel. Typically, students can’t come into Appliance Park until they are 17 or 18 years old, but we know that to interest students in manufacturing as a career option, they must see it and experience it at an earlier age … that’s why we’re doing this and other things to bring manufacturing to them.”
According to the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM) and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the Louisville area’s manufacturing sector is an $11 billion industry, representing 17 percent of the region’s economic activity and 13 percent of regional employment. But Greater Louisville manufacturers are not finding enough qualified candidates to sustain and grow their businesses. According to the Louisville Labor Market Report for 1Q 2016, there were nearly 2,000 advanced manufacturing skilled job openings, which demonstrates not only the demand for these jobs but the opportunity for those who choose a career path in the skilled trades.
“In the same way colleges scout middle-school athletes, we need to be recruiting the next generation of manufacturers at an early age so they and their parents can select an educational path that prepares them,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “Manufacturing is a huge driver of Louisville’s economic engine. To sustain and grow that important industry, we must create a robust pipeline of skilled trades and entry-level, work-ready manufacturing employees.”