I’m not a fan of reality TV. The catty behaviors, the backstabbing, the constant whining -- I don’t need it in my life, nor do I care to watch it played out on TV.
But I do like watching informative TV Shows, and this past weekend, I caught up on a few episodes of the show, How Do They Do It on the Science Channel. The show explains how things are made and how they work, like how Rolls-Royce builds engines for fighter jets that are capable of handling the most extreme environments, or how today’s bank vaults are constructed to provide optimum security.
The latter got me thinking. I don’t have the urge to rob a bank -- especially after learning how indestructible they are -- but it made me realize that I enjoy learning how things are made, and I can’t be alone. That curiosity, along with educational shows like these, could be a very powerful ally in helping the general public learn more about the manufacturing industry and just how viable it is in reviving the economy.
Last November, at the 2009 FabTech Show, I met John Ratzenberger, spokesperson of the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs (NBT) Foundation. His organization helps fund scholarships and programs that inspire the next generation of manufacturers and skilled trades people. I asked him why he felt there was a need to provide more education in community colleges for the skilled trades.
Ratzenberger noted two reasons for the need to educate more future manufacturers and provide funding to do so. Back in the 1950’s, many students went on to skilled trades immediately after graduating high school. They received much of their training taking shop classes in high school and apprenticeships in their early years in the field. But over time, public high schools have had to cut their funding, and as a result, shop classes are on the decline -- and so are the number of students interested in manufacturing.
Perhaps TV shows like How Do They Do It and organizations like NBT are just what we need to revive interest in building and creating things. But it needs to start at a very young age -- encouraging a resourceful, do-it-yourself, entrepreneurial attitude. Teaching the next generation to build things and foster curiosity in how they are made. Through that curiosity, we can foster innovation. And through innovation -- and more public awareness -- we can educate others on what needs to be done to revive manufacturing.