by Denise Felder~

Employers and educators know that young people with interests and skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are likely to qualify for a wide range of high-paying careers.

For example, a Mechanical Drafter in Minnesota could earn $18 an hour to start. The median wage for Drafters with an Associate’s degree is almost $27 an hour.

Potential students and job seekers, however, often don’t know about the innovative work and high earning potential that manufacturing careers offer. And parents of potential students — who influence what their children study in college — have misconceptions about what it’s really like to work in manufacturing.

A new survey found 87% of parents believe STEM education is important for their children, yet there remains a clear disconnect between STEM education and its related careers, particularly in manufacturing, reports Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate for the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc).

The survey was conducted by the Alcoa Foundation and SkillsUSA. It found that 72% of parents believe “a good job requires a four-year bachelor’s degree,” but 34% don’t think jobs in the manufacturing or trade industries require a college education. This shows that a large number of parents do not see manufacturing as “good jobs.”

It also shows that theCampFresh2012 majority of parents are not aware of the array of high-paying, in-demand careers that begin with an associate degree or other industry-recognized credential. This is true of careers in manufacturing, health care, and several other career areas.

“Parents have some awareness about manufacturing careers, but there are still looming misperceptions about the robust, exciting prospects for their sons and daughters, especially as more than half of manufacturers see a shortage of manufacturing talent,” Tim Lawrence, executive director of SkillsUSA, said in the study’s report. “Students have plenty of options to explore within the field of STEM education and manufacturing careers, and can earn strong wages and benefits.”

Of the more than 1,000 parents surveyed in the spring of 2015, two-thirds believed that manufacturing jobs don’t provide opportunities for advancement. Industry and labor market data says otherwise.

Looking at a sample career pathway from the manufacturing industry consortium 360, an entry-level manufacturing employee can advance far, with the right education and training. Multiple high-paying positions require an associate degree or less. Employees with a bachelor’s degree or more related education can move into highly specialized positions or management roles.

Parents, students and job seekers wanting to know more about manufacturing career options and STEM, can read more about the Alcoa study. Then go to and find the facts about manufacturing today, and learn about education and training options.

For a national perspective, check out NASDCTEc’s blog post CTE Research Review: Manufacturing Edition.


Featured image courtesy of RDECOM under Creative Commons 2.0.

Insert image courtesy of Christiana Care under Creative Commons 2.0.