How to Fix Manufacturing’s Poor Image

July 18, 2017

"The American public’s perception of manufacturing may be at an inflection point. The good news is manufacturing clearly matters to many Americans, with the vast majority viewing U.S. manufacturing as crucial to America’s economic prosperity, standard of living, and national security," said a new report. 

[IW Staff | July 13, 2017 |Industry Week]

U.S. manufacturing suffers from an important image problem that undermines its competitiveness, according to a new survey released on July 13 by Deloitte, along with the Manufacturing Institute.

Only 50% of Americans think manufacturing jobs are interesting and less than 30% are likely to encourage their children to pursue a career.

However Americans have not yet given up hope on the industry and in fact are overwhelmingly optimistic for its future: 

  • 55% believe that sector can compete globally
  • 81% that future manufacturing jobs will occur in safer and cleaner environments
  • 64% believe the industry is high-tech
  • 76% of respondents believe the U.S. needs a more strategic approach to develop manufacturing 


While the future looks bright, much needs to be done to make sure that the public, including educators and those in a position to guide talent to the industry, understand the facts, the report concludes. For example, many people feel that the industry does not offer well-paid jobs. However, workers in the sector currently earn $20,000 more including pay and benefits, compared to employees in other industry. Manufacturing holds the highest average wages ($81,289) across all private sector industries and has one of the lowest turnover rates (2.3%).

Read more at Industry Week

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  • James Crawford
    Domestic Manufacturers could improve their image by adopting the workplace culture and compensation practices of Nucor Steel, which does not feature the status distinctions at the core of Bruce’s critique.

    Unfortunately the workplace culture and compensation practices of most of our domestic manufacturers followed the historical path blazed by U.S. Steel right here in my hometown of Pittsburgh. Consequently all their critics has to do was point out the obvious, which made it impossible for good folks like Bruce to successfully defend manufacturing in the court of public opinion.
  • Bruce Bishop
    We are 30 years too late to “fix manufacturing’s poor image.” The journalists, academics, politicians, and economists, who hated manufacturing, did everything they could to smear manufacturing and the entrepreneurs who ran it. They succeeded in driving 8 million high paying manufacturing jobs to China, which resulted in the loss of another 20 million corollary jobs.

    Why did the journalists, academics, politicians and economists hate manufacturing? Because hourly workers, with only high school diplomas, often earned as much as they did; and manufacturing entrepreneurs sometimes became wealthy as a result of their endeavors. It was what drives socialism — envy — pure and simple.

    I worked in manufacturing for 20 years. It is true that manufacturing is often hot, dirty, noisy, and boring. However, many workers were perfectly content to do the same task over and over. Those who needed more intellectual stimulation either moved up into management, or had side businesses, or held leadership roles in their church, their community, or in civic organizations.

    Manufacturing was the only avenue for millions of high school graduates (still the majority of Americans) to provide a middle class lifestyle and raise a family on one job. Manufacturing also provided challenging and upwardly-mobile opportunities for hundreds of thousands of college graduates. Retail and service jobs, which are about all we have left, pay one-third to one-half of what manufacturing jobs paid. Now, it takes two or three jobs to support a family in a middle class lifestyle.

    The old “assembly line” manufacturing that provided well for millions of American families will not be coming back. Those “high tech” jobs are also being done in China — with essentially slave labor. The Foxconn workers who assembled your iPhone work 16 hour days, six days a week, for about $240 per month. They live in worker dorms adjacent to the factory, with suicide nets under the windows. Their room and board takes most of their wages. Do the math!

    Communist China is a criminal enterprise. We should not be doing business with China at all. Our greedy incompetent government has allowed China to steal our technology, our intellectual property, and our jobs. China is not doing this to improve the lives of their workers, but to build up their military and to enrich the honchos of the Chinese Communist Party. This will not end well for us.