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Manufacturing equipment
Weekend edition October 13, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

The ‘driving force’ behind every industry needs workers

More than 200 high school students in Knox County Schools are exploring what a manufacturing career could look like in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Do you know which industry contributes $2.65 trillion to the U.S. economy, employs nearly 13 million American workers, and makes up 10.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product?

I bet your mind went to technology, healthcare, construction, or some other booming industry. But, the real answer is manufacturing.

Manufacturing is the ‘driving force’ behind nearly every industry. A manufacturer builds your cell phone, the X-ray machine at the doctor’s office, and the automation used to power construction equipment. The powerhouse of manufacturing spans further than that, too. The manufacturing sector includes food manufacturing, beverages, textiles, leather, wood, paper, petroleum, plastics, machinery, electronics, furniture, and more. Nearly everything around you right now has been manufactured at one point or another.

The problem? Worker Shortage.

According to the Manufacturing Institute (MI), about 1.4 million manufacturing jobs were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that happened, the industry was already short on workers. The MI predicts there will be 2.1 million unfulfilled jobs by 2030 resulting from a lack of skilled labor. Therefore, it’s a critical time to energize people about careers in manufacturing.

October is manufacturing month, and this year it’s of great importance.

“The first official Manufacturing Day was held in 2012, and President Obama signed the presidential proclamation in 2014. I’m so pleased to participate in this reawakening to the importance of manufacturing through partnership with companies like MSC Industrial Supply Company and the Manufacturing Day event hosted at TN-MADE,” said University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) Professor Tony Schmitz in a press release.

The solution? Students.

More than 200 high school students in Knox County Schools tested out what a manufacturing career could look like. Through UTK and MSC Industrial Supply Company those high school students toured the Tennessee Manufacturing and Design Enterprise (TN-MADE) building off Pellissippi Parkway for Manufacturing Day. TN-MADE houses the Machine Tool Research Center, where students can experience the latest state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing machines, and explore career opportunities.

“This day offers a good look at what UTK’s Tickle College of Engineering is doing in the manufacturing world, as well as some of the partners we have helping us with that research,” said Elijah Charles, a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering from Oak Ridge. “It’s very important to develop the workforce of tomorrow for both our national security and financial security, so we need to make sure it doesn’t suffer, which is why we are trying to get these students interested in it.”

UTK students gave the high schoolers a firsthand look at some of the machines in action, helping further drive interest. Some of the demonstrations included CNC machines, additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, hybrid manufacturing, and metrology.

“Here at MSC, manufacturing is in our DNA,” MSC Senior Innovation R&D Engineer of Metalworking Innovation Michael Gomez said in a press release. “Our goal is to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of manufacturing leaders to carry our industry forward. This is a great opportunity to bring together the local community to showcase the dynamic world of modern manufacturing.”

Read more about local manufacturing projects in Knoxville.

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