Manufacturing is in a Crisis

Thursday, July 8, 2021



We are in a time of crisis in the manufacturing world! The silver tsunami represents those who are surfing towards retirement, and we do not have the next generation in tow to replace them. What needs to happen in a time of crisis is that our leaders need to lead!

In the manufacturing world many leaders get mesmerized into contending with putting out fires daily. They have to ship product by the end of the month, ever so closely watch cash flow and employ all the Deming quality principles that are a must for each of them to prosper.

While this is all happening, our young people are walking like zombies towards the cliff of 4-year college degrees. Meanwhile they are accumulating massive student debt, and entering careers that may not be the best match for them. They are also getting in a line in other industries with countless other candidates in a saturated labor pool. Simple supply and demand would indicate that their value diminishes with high supply and low demand.

The manufacturing world owes it to itself to compete for the top young talent entering the workforce. We need to brag about our opportunities and the excitement, challenge and rewarding (financially and otherwise) careers we offer. The best kept secret cannot afford to be just that any longer! We need to reach out to our local educators and engage them into our world. We need to invite them in, show them our workspaces and the processes. Show them the computers that run our machine tools, the quality systems we employ, and the money that their students can make.

Going forward in the working world, we should work together as a team. Manufacturing is a team sport and we have much to gain by working together. This message must reach four groups: employers, school parents associations, local governments and educators.

Each of us can do more. We need to do more to promote our trade, our careers, our products. Manufacturing Day is a great way to do that. Open your doors and show what you are so proud to have built. Invite students and parents in to see all you have to offer. Purchase books to educate and inspire them to join the ranks of manufacturing careers. Offer internships for young people. These careers are not for everyone. If we can just educate more people about the good paying opportunities that abound, they can make a conscious decision whether to pursue instead of simply not knowing. Reach out to your local Project Lead the Way (PLTW) school and offer to speak to their students. Offer to help start a manufacturing company within the school and have them make basic parts for you.

School Parents Associations
Hold events for your parents. Invite industry members in to hold town hall type sessions. The more the parents know, the better. Chances are their perceptions are outdated and inaccurate. Being current and relevant is the best value proposition there is for the parents in this country. Many of them are saving to send their child to college, only to find out decades later that the plan is outdated and more of a dead end than they ever thought.

Local Governments
Schools need to be measured by more than just how many of their students go to college. Being career ready going forward can and will mean much more than college ready. The paradigm needs to pivot to be more flexible and sensitive to a student’s passion, aptitude, means of learning and priorities in life. Programs should be offered and or developed to attend to internships for at-risk youth. Industry and education can both participate in a collective effort. Government has the opportunity and resources to bring these groups together.

Schools, administrators, instructors, and department heads are forced to go rogue, until such time that the measurement tools are changed to reflect what is relevant in today’s culture and today’s market. Right now education is a record that is stuck, and repeating the same verse over and over. What we need is to appeal to a broader audience and go outside conventional means. In order to do this the parents need to be engaged and be part of the solution. While they think that their child will go to college, make the dean’s list, come out of school with a degree and five job offers right out of the gate at graduation, the numbers simply do not prove this to be true. Reach out to local adjacent industry members and ask what their needs are. Ask them to get involved. Do not wait for them to ask you.

Not only does each manufacturing company need to be a team, so does the system. As shown above, each group needs to interface with one another. In my book, “Finding America’s Greatest Champion,” I tell stories about and for each of the groups. It is a resource for all to use.

Preaching to all of the above and showing each how to integrate into a well-oiled team to make significant and sustainable impact and change, is what it is all about. Showing what is possible and is effective in order to make the next generation happier, more successful and accountable than the previous generation is where we can make a difference and breed success for generations to come.

Come join the team, in finding American’s greatest champion! Learn more on July 27 when I present a virtual event on this topic.



Terry M. Iverson is president and CEO of Iverson & Company, a 90-year-old sales and service organization that offers engineered manufacturing process solutions to customers. These solutions include turnkeys on new milling, turning and grinding machines and training and after-sales support. Iverson has over 40 years of experience coaching, training and mentoring customer-centric staff, and new hires in an engineered machine tool solution environment. Learn more at



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