Every year, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) promotes Manufacturing Day – a celebration of manufacturers everywhere and a chance to addresses common misperceptions about manufacturing. It’s also a chance to address the skilled labor shortage manufacturers face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry.

Earlier this year, during ACMA’s Composites Executive Forum, Brent Weil, a senior vice president at NAM, explained that while many Americans believe in the value of manufacturing to the country, many parents do not want their kids pursuing careers in it. That conclusion is supported by a recent Deloitte study, which found that 8 in 10 American believe manufacturing is vital to maintaining the “American way of life,” but also that one-third of Americans would not encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing.

To make matters more difficult, manufacturers are finding that those who do go into manufacturing lack many basic technology and computer skills, and struggle with problem solving and math. Deloitte estimates that over the next decade, demand for manufacturing jobs will increase by nearly 3.5 million, and 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to skills gaps.

According to Michelle Drew Rodriguez, manufacturing leader at Deloitte’s Center for Industry Insights, manufacturers struggle to attract and retain talent due to a wide range of misperceptions of the manufacturing field as a whole and where it’s headed.

“I think there’s a disconnect between the here-and-now and the future,” says Rodriguez. “The public has this idea it’s going to take years for manufacturing to become modern, when in fact, many of the companies within the manufacturing industry are already very modern.”

Rodriguez also notes the public perception about the quality of life manufacturing professionals have. She believes many see manufacturing as a low-wage, dead-end job. However, US manufacturers, Rodriguez estimates, have one of the highest percentage (around 92 percent) of employees eligible for health benefits. Additionally, the average manufacturing professional makes around $81,000 annually compared to $63,000-64,000 across other industries.

One of the reasons Manufacturing Day is so important, Rodriguez says, is that it helps dispel some of those misperceptions by allowing manufacturers in every industry to open their doors and show the general public what a career in manufacturing looks like. Rodriguez notes that last year, according to a post-Manufacturing Day survey, 88 percent of students felt Manufacturing Day activities and tours were interesting, 89 percent are more aware of manufacturing jobs in the community, and 64% are more motivated to pursue a job in manufacturing then they were before.