Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio

When I was a child growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, my family used to drive over a bridge that spanned the “Flats”, the Cuyahoga River Valley, on our way to visit my grandmother on the east side of town.  The Flats was home to the many steel mills that helped make Cleveland a major manufacturing city.

The Flats in Cleveland

Back in my youth the mills spewed sulfurous clouds of smoke into the air and the Cuyahoga River was a toxic sewer, flowing into Lake Erie.  Crossing that bridge and seeing the flames and the smoke, I was certain that was what hell looked and smelled like.

I knew then that I did NOT want to spend my career trapped inside a factory.  They were dangerous, hot, noisy and all the jobs were mind numbingly repetitive and boring.

I was determined to do well enough in school so that I could go to college, get a diploma, and escape the miserable life of a factory worker.

My, how times have changed.

Most manufacturing jobs today are well paying, stimulating, high tech, and safe.  Many–if not most–do not require a college diploma.  And as any recent college graduate can tell you, no diploma = no college debt.

Sadly too many parents in America are still pressuring their children to go to college, collect an over-priced sheepskin, and slug it out to land a job in a cubicle, staring at a computer monitor.  Many of those same children would be thrilled to take a well paying job in a clean, well-lit manufacturing plant . . . if they only knew those jobs existed and were waiting to be filled by bright, hard-working young people.

The future of America depends on our factories.  Those factories depend on a supply of  bright, hard-working young people.  Will America’s parents and their kids wake up in time to respond to this new reality?

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