In honor of national Manufacturing Day, about two dozen factories across the state opened their shops to visitors Friday, hoping to attract workers and educate people about the advanced technology used in making today's products.
The promotional effort, which will continue through the month, is expected to attract thousands of young job candidates into U.S. factories and to dispel outdated images of the profession. Organizers say that too many college students, parents and guidance counselors perceive factories as places for grease monkeys hooked on repetitive duties.
"Because manufacturing happens behind closed doors, the public still thinks of [it] as being like the 1930s," said Elizabeth Graham, spokeswoman for Wilson Tool in White Bear Lake. "They think it is assembly lines and guys working with anvils in dark and dirty [places]. But it's not. It's very smooth and slick and clean and high-tech. So we need people to see the reality of it."
Manufacturing Institute President Jennifer McNelly said many don't know that "today's manufacturing is about advanced technologies, state of the art facilities, and fast-paced work environments. So Manufacturing Day expands knowledge and improves public perception."
Tool and die shops, window makers, metal stampers and other companies lit up Twitter, e-mails and radio shows with invitations to go check out a factory this month. Many highlighted that wages typically range from $13 to $30 an hour.
In Minnesota, Caterpillar in Roseville and Brooklyn Park; Wilson Tool and Dayton Rogers Manufacturing in Minneapolis; E.J. Ajax in Fridley and JEM Technical in Orono staged open houses and tours on Friday.
Later this month, Marvin Windows & Doors, Pequot Tool & Manufacturing, Zero Zone Refrigeration, Felling Trailers, Jones Metal Products and scores of others will also give factory tours.
For a full list of participants and Manufacturing Day events, visit www.mfgday.com/events online.
This is only the third year for the effort. The number of events has ballooned steadily and now are being pushed by the White House, local chambers of commerce and the national Fabricators & Manufacturers Association.
Peggy Anderholm, Marvin Windows manager of education and workforce development, said her company will host 56 technical-college students on Oct. 23. They will see the factory, talk to machinists, programmers and drafters and learn about well paying jobs that only require a two-year degree.
"It is another way to connect and to get people interested in manufacturing," Anderholm said. "There are not enough [manufacturing students] coming out of the schools today. So this is a way to get them to understand that there is a lot of opportunity and jobs in the field."
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725