If you are driving a Toyota vehicle built in North America today, chances are the aluminum castings were made by workers at Toyota Bodine Manufacturing in Troy, Mo. One of the largest aluminum casting manufacturers in the world, the plant has been providing livelihoods for St. Louis-region workers and their families for more than 100 years.
A lot has changed at Bodine Aluminum and advanced manufacturers around the country over the last century. What was once a labor-intensive profession has become high-tech. Workers in today’s manufacturing plants are highly skilled equipment technicians, programmers and engineers. On average, individuals who choose a career in advanced manufacturing technologies can earn $15,000 more than the average pay of workers across all sectors, according to the Manufacturing Institute. Manufacturing is also a secure job choice. American manufacturers are expected to add 3.5 million jobs in the next decade.
But here is the downside. Roughly 2 million manufacturing jobs may go unfilled in the next decade because there are not enough skilled workers to fill them. Students, parents and school counselors are not aware of the opportunities that manufacturing holds for our next generation workers. As a result, America’s students are not choosing manufacturing careers.
At Bodine Aluminum Manufacturing, we are working to change that through programs like the Advanced Manufacturing Program and Dream It. Do It. The AMT program is a partnership between State Technical College and a local manufacturing consortium comprised of five area manufacturers to combine classroom instruction and paid on-the-job experience to create opportunities for students and a manufacturing workforce for tomorrow. Dream It Do It is a program developed by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute to showcase the incredible opportunities available in manufacturing to youth.
In a partnership with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Manufacturing Institute, we are launching a video contest for students at local high schools (Elsberry, Lincoln County, Winfield and Silex). Students will create videos of local manufacturing facilities. The students will highlight “What’s cool about manufacturing” and will compete for the most “likes” on YouTube. Participating schools are receiving GoPro cameras, software and coaching through a grant from the Toyota Foundation.
The contest is designed to familiarize students with the opportunities that manufacturing careers provide. A Manufacturing Institute study shows that students familiar with manufacturing are two times more likely to consider it as a career opportunity. This is an innovative way to help our students see the abundant opportunities these jobs provide and encourage them to share what they have learned with their social media friends.
Bodine Aluminum Manufacturing is proud to be part of this program and open our facility to our next generation of workers. We currently provide 750 jobs to workers in this region and intend to keep growing. To do that, we need to let our students and parents know what it takes to be part of our workforce and the benefits that come with these careers.
Manufacturing helped make America what it is today. Manufacturers continue to be the economic backbone of many of our local communities; that’s especially true in the St. Louis region. As important, manufacturing can provide our millennial generation an ideal pathway for fulfilling and good-paying work. If we can show more youth the opportunities in manufacturing, it will be a win-win for our state and nation.
Wes Woods is general manager of Toyota Bodine Manufacturing.