The Manufacturing Council of the Department of Commerce held its first of three annual meetings yesterday at National Manufacturing Week in Rosemont, IL. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez was a guest speaker at the meeting.When asked by Manufacturing.net staff to comment on Colin Wu's comments at the opening keynote regarding the unproductively of the American worker compared to the industriousness of the Chinese worker, Don Wainwright, Chairman and CEO of Wainwright Industries said, "U.S. workers are the best in the world. The workforce is good, but we have some lousy managers." As to the motivation of U.S. vs. Chinese workers he believed it is actually reversed - a "flip-flop" he stated. The Council's Executive Director, Albert Frink commented that the message and image of manufacturing needs to be changed in order to attract the next generation of workers."The realities of manufacturing and perception are world's apart," Frink said. "The perception is that it is a low-paying, dirty field. We need to promote the image of manufacturing so kids do not see it as an unattractive career option." Frink continued that today's facilities are state-of-the-art, clean and high-tech. He suggested bringing school groups to the plant to show the nation's youth that manufacturing can provide high-tech opportunities. "The dirty, smokestack image is of the past," Frink said. Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, also voiced his thoughts on the strength of the nation's economy.
"We are outgrowing any other industrialized economy," the Secretary said. "Take home pay is up and household net worth is up." The Secretary citied the importance of math and science education as a way to engage students in related careers. James Padilla, Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company, echoed the Secretary's concern over less math, science and engineering students and called it "a sobering thought." Padilla also discussed the growing markets for alternative energies and technologies. "Manufacturers are spending a lot of dollars on research into alternative fuels," Padilla said. He commented that the economy is moving along reasonably well, but the auto industry is currently suffering. Fred Keller, Chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering voiced a need for continued education of employees. "Cross-training of employees is needed," Keller said. "Manufacturing jobs are more interesting than before, but higher skills are needed." In conclusion, Secretary Gutierrez stated that if American manufacturers can compete in the U.S., they can compete anywhere in the world. "If a U.S. manufacturer can keep up with innovation in the market here, a U.S. manufacturer can compete globally," said Gutierrez.