Is Manufacturing in America at Odds with Higher Education?


One of the “freshly pressed” sites I found was a blog by John Briggs, whose focus is on bringing jobs back to the U.S. through manufacturing. According to his blog, more than six million manufacturing jobs have left the country over the past three decades. He is currently exploring the topic by writing a book called Simply America, Putting our Extended American Family Back to Work.

In the particular post I read, titled America’s biggest missed opportunity?, he indicates that despite the high unemployment rates in our country, American manufacturers are having trouble finding workers. Many jobs have been added in the industry over the past few years, and they’re even well paid. The problem, he states, is that many lack the proper skills for these jobs.

Essentially, his theory on this is that young Americans believe they have to attend a four-year college and receive a bachelor’s degree in order to make money and get a job later on. He maintains that there are other ways to become well-educated and well-trained for a job, including hitting up the public library and attending community college. There, one can receive training for jobs like manufacturing.

As a student of a liberal arts college, I felt a little saddened by this view. I agree that manufacturing jobs are a good route for some to consider and that it’s an important industry for our economy. However, I also feel strongly about the value of higher education and creating a well-educated workforce of creative, well-rounded thinkers for the future. It’s one way that our country can remain competitive with other nations.

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5 thoughts on “Is Manufacturing in America at Odds with Higher Education?

  1. I believe in the past decade the value of a college education skyrocketed and higher education grew tremendously as a business. I think that by putting such an emphasis on the 4 year degree significantly decreased the pool of potential employees for these lower level manufacturing jobs. Maybe if this idea was more well known, certain students not desiring a 4 year education could bypass the process and still be able to work. It obviously isn’t ideal for students here at Bucknell, but could have a huge impact for people with a different mindset.

  2. I think one area that is underestimated as far as an opportunity for further education is the value of trade schools. In trade schools, students can learn the specific tools necessary to succeed in their jobs where there is often an opportunity for financial success. Yet many students just blindly go off to 4 year colleges because that is the norm; but they leave with no better an idea of what they want to do with their life and 200K poorer.

  3. One of the most practical forms of higher education I believe resides at Northeastern University. Students there receive 5 year degrees because they must complete at least two 6 month co-op internships in order to gain working experience. They not only graduate with a working resume, but also with technical skills and a better idea of what they want to pursue as a career.

  4. For people with a different mindset, these manufacturing jobs would clearly be a great opportunity. On a little bit of a different note, I believe that if you have the chance to have a four year college degree, you take it, unless it would create a financial issue. In my opinion though, people are far too concerned with jumping through hoops, putting stuff on their resume, cramming for tests just to forget it all the next day, and so on. The mindset on what higher education is shouldn’t be like that. It shouldn’t be looked at as a ticket to a great job. I think people should see learning as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end.

  5. While it is easy for liberal arts college students like ourselves to fully support the notion of a four-year education, for some people that just isn’t a viable option. In this respect, the blog author may be right that learning the skills necessary for certain jobs/careers (like those in manufacturing) could be done at a library or community college that doesn’t require as many expenses. Obviously a four-year degree is pretty much crucial if you want to enjoy a certain lifestyle, but others may not share the same dreams as a typical Bucknellian. Who’s to say that a “well-rounded thinker” can only be produced within the walls of a four-year institution?

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