The good news is that, according to the results of a new survey, most Americans believe U.S. manufacturing is vital to maintaining the country’s economic prosperity. Then again, less than 50 percent of the respondents said they believe manufacturing jobs are interesting, rewarding, clean, safe, stable and secure, according to the results of the 2017 Public Perception of Manufacturing Survey, released by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte.


Furthermore, and perhaps most sobering, less than 30 percent of those surveyed indicated they are likely to encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. Nonetheless, when asked what future jobs in manufacturing will look like, respondents had overwhelmingly optimistic views: future manufacturing jobs will require high-tech skills (cited by 88 percent of respondents), will be clean and safe (81 percent), as well as more innovative (77 percent).


Consequently, manufacturing clearly matters to Americans, yet it also suffers from an image problem that undermines its competitiveness, according to the report. To turn perceptions around, the report offers the following steps that manufacturers, either individually or collectively, can take to actively create more positive perceptions about the industry and work to attract talent, both young and old, to the industry.


The first step, the report notes, is to share good news and dispel false impressions of the industry. This can be achieved through conducting conversations and events such as Manufacturing Day to create public awareness of the strong and positive realities about manufacturing. “Did you know?” types of campaigns—to present the truth about the manufacturing industry, like it having high wages—can go a long way in improving the perception of the industry among the general public, the report notes.


A second tactic is to highlight top priorities people seek in a career. The manufacturing industry already provides careers that have good job benefits, pay and are interesting and rewarding—key characteristics that the American public desires. Recognizing that the demand for top talent extends beyond the manufacturing industry, companies will likely need to focus on determining how best to attract and retain the best and brightest talent.


Another key step is to invest in and foster high-interest programs. Programs directed toward hands-on skill development may find the most traction among the American public, as far as increasing interest in manufacturing is concerned, the report explains. Manufacturers should take note that apprenticeships, internships and certification-based training programs are all seen favorably by Americans.


Companies should also strive to leverage groups with higher interest and perception levels. Surveyed segments such as women and Americans with high manufacturing familiarity have a better image of, and perception about, the U.S. manufacturing industry. These demographic segments can be leveraged as brand ambassadors to improve and influence manufacturing perception within other segments.


Tapping into the strong associations between manufacturing and economic prosperity is also a smart move. It’s clear that Americans believe a strong manufacturing industry is vital to the nation—its economy, people and national priorities—the report explains. Manufacturers could do more to tap into the patriotic pride of a strong industrial base.


It’s also important to generate awareness around state-of-the-art advanced technologies critical to manufacturing. Advanced technologies such as predictive analytics and advanced materials—deemed critical to the future of manufacturing—should have top-of-mind awareness among the American public. Manufacturers should emulate their Silicon Valley counterparts by weaving a “cool” image of their industry with that of advanced technologies and innovation, the authors suggest.


Finally, companies should work to create initiatives that bring industry, government and academia together. That’s because manufacturers can benefit from better enabling and tapping into a larger ecosystem that fosters innovation and creates more opportunities to attract top talent across a broader spectrum. The manufacturing industry, for instance, can benefit from ecosystem players coming together for awareness-raising campaigns and initiatives.


What are your thoughts on manufacturing’s image? What can be done to improve how people outside the industry think about manufacturing?