It's Not Your Grandfather's Manufacturing Anymore

It's Not Your Grandfather's Manufacturing Anymore

Ask Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center’s Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing Technology instructor Jim Simmering about the biggest obstacle facing manufacturing today and he’ll tell you it’s the perception people have about the industry.  Said Simmering, “People still think of manufacturing as a tough, boring job in a dirty, dingy warehouse-type building and it’s just not that way anymore in most factories.  Robotics and advanced manufacturing technology have turned manufacturing into something entirely different from the perception people have left from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.  It’s time to change those old-fashioned ideas.”

Stepping into Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center’s Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative (RAMTEC) Center, a visitor can see what manufacturing today looks like – robotics, CNC and PLC technology, a 3-D printer, a plasma cutter, fluid power systems, and welders all being operated by neat, uniform-clad students.  Said Simmering, “This is the face of manufacturing today.  It’s clean, bright, and climate-controlled because of the computer equipment. It’s 21st century technology and a world away from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.”

Studies show manufacturing is experiencing a comeback and has become the second-largest private sector employer in Northeast Ohio -- second only to health care.   After losing jobs for years, manufacturing is now growing at a fast pace as factories produce equipment and necessary components to power industries throughout the country and the world.  Ohio is at the forefront, leading the nation in supplying precision parts to the airline and auto industries, and for robotics and medical devices. 

Yet, at the same time many companies are reporting growth, the manufacturing industry is facing a major shortage of skilled workers. It is estimated that over the next decade, 2 million manufacturing jobs across the U.S. will go unfilled due to manufacturers' inability to find workers with the required skills. 

According to the 2007 Public Perception Report, “…The U.S. public greatly supports the manufacturing industry and would choose to have a manufacturing plant open in their region over other types of employers. However, the public is unwilling to encourage their children pursue careers in manufacturing…” “That’s the difficulty we face as educators,” said Simmering, “While there are thousands of quality, well-paying jobs available, parents aren’t encouraging their children to enter those fields.  It’s the perception again.”   

Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center has been working with the North Central Workforce Alliance (NCWA) to change these perceptions and fill employers’ needs in North Central Ohio.  NCWA is a partnership of area business/industry leaders who are experiencing the “worker squeeze.”  Said Ken Bailey, Human Resources Representative at LUK Industries, Wooster, “We need to re-educate parents and students to let them know manufacturing is a dynamic work environment that can offer a pathway from worker to the executive suite for motivated employees.  It happens.”

For more information about the Career Center’s Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing Technology program, visit the district website at, click High School/Programs/Manufacturing Technology.  Or call 419-289-3313 or email Superintendent Mike Parry at

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