“Think about the last time you were out of total physical contact with all manufactured goods,” asks Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturer’s Association. “For most of us, we can’t even think about that time because it’s so omnipresent in our lives.”
For that reason among many, it can be argued that, for Nevada, no other industry has as much potential for growth and diversification as manufacturing. No longer simply a “punch the time-clock and monitor these widgets” industry, manufacturing in today’s world is a high-tech field that requires educated and ambitious individuals.
“A career in manufacturing really offers job opportunities across the spectrum of skill sets,” explains Ryan Costella, director of strategic initiatives at Click Bond, a Carson City based manufacturer of fasteners used in a variety of ways, most notably in aerospace design. He adds that, “it’s not just putting parts together, although that is an important component. Really, for anyone with any kind of interest, a manufacturing operation is a great place to consider how to apply one’s skills and passions.”
Highlighting the education required for the field today Bacon added that, “the person that can’t read used to be able to get a job in manufacturing but that’s not the case anymore. The person that doesn’t have a solid basis of math skills and can’t understand statistics doesn’t get hired anymore. We’re constantly looking for people with good problem solving skills.”
Gina O’Connell, general manager of Local Motors who recently made headlines by printing a car added that, “A career in manufacturing gives you the ability to take your dreams and see them come to life. Manufacturing provides well-paying jobs and opportunities to collaborate on a world platform with great companies and thinkers.”
Dr. Dana Ryan, director of Washoe County School District’s Signature Academies and CTE added that, “manufacturing spans so many different fields of interest from aerospace to traditional production. Anything that a student could find an interest in, manufacturing is associated with that.”
Nevada educators, like Ryan, have recognized the value of a career in manufacturing for their students and have begun offering more programs in the field. Gia Moore, director of the Clark County School District’s (CCSD) Magnet Schools and Career and Technical Academies works to highlight manufacturing as a career option for her students and strives to engage them in the field.
“We’ve always had some aspect of curriculum that include skill-based manufacturing,” Moore said. “We’ve had to change how we pitch it. It’s not palatable for a middle school kid going into high school to say they want to do something in manufacturing.”
“We try to sell it through other programs,” said Ryan. “We’re working on rebranding manufacturing because we don’t want to get stuck in that spot of, it’s just blue collar workers. We try to connect it to something that a parent can hear as a really open, positive place for their kids.”
The lack of interest is a hurdle for many in manufacturing and primarily a result of a view into the industry that is in severe need of an update. Ryan’s students, for example, learn a variety of manufacturing related fields which she hopes will lead them to their passion and future career. In addtion, to help showcase the many positives of the industry, Moore’s programs require each student to complete a final capstone project that utilizes the skills they learned in the classroom.
“When students are in these types of programs, they’re getting hands-on experience and given the latitude to be creative,” said Moore. “That’s where the capstone project comes in. Not only are they creating and learning at the schools, they’re also working and connecting partners with various internships.”
Kevin Gullette, economic development administrator with the Clark County Economic Development office added that CCSD’s programs give students, “critical skills so they can walk out of high school and get jobs doing software development or working in advanced manufacturing with aerospace engineering.”
“I have spent the last 23 years with YESCO and my work is like going to Disneyland every day,” John Williams, president of YESCO Custom Signs. “Our state accredited apprenticeship program is the only program of its type in the sign industry and teaches a very wide range of skills and trades. Our craftsmen and technicians can make a very good living for themselves and their families.”
It’s clear that with a future workforce that understands the value of a career in manufacturing the industry’s value as an economic driver is unlimited. “We have the goose that lays the large golden egg with the Strip,” said Gullutte. “But, if you look at what’s happening behind the scenes of the glitz and glamour, somebody has to make that stuff. To me, the manufacturing process that supports our tourism industry is going to be the future. It’s going to be leaner, more sophisticated and it’s going to demand more of the workers to have cross-disciplinary critical thinking skills.”
“It clearly benefits Nevada economically because of the higher salary levels in the manufacturing environment,” added Terry Culp, deputy director of Nevada Industry Excellence (NVIE). “Typically, for every manufacturing job, there’s three to four ancillary jobs that are created. It’s the highest leverage of economic impact regarding employment that there is.”
“Manufacturing diversifies the economy of Nevada,” said O’Connell. “Our state attracts manufacturers for a number of reasons, including mild weather, proximity to STEM-focused talent and tax friendliness. The Tax Foundation lists Nevada among the top 10 states with the best business tax climate. And, with 40 million visitors per year in Las Vegas alone, Nevada is the perfect arena for global innovation and collaboration.”