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Other Articles from The Villager

We can salvage the economy through Manufacturing

Mon, 27 October 2014 12:00
by Mr. T
Columns


When I was a kid, I went back and forth between wanting to become a Solder or a doctor. Although on my more adventurous days, I was set to become a Pilot or a bus .
Clearly, my career aspirations were all over the place – but what never even crossed my mind was becoming a manufacturer.
In my view, it seems like the twenty-something and younger crowd would sooner build farms or plan the next great civilization on Windhoek rather than actually make it happen. This doesn’t speak to everyone in my age group, but I certainly don’t have many peers dying to break into the manufacturing industry. We’re a generation that’s obsessed with  tenders, being cool, and honestly manufacturing doesn’t seem very cool.
We’ve got a real problem on our hands in Africa particularly Namibia. A gap between what we produce and what we eat. Fruit and Veg, Shoperite and Pick n Pay are full with products farmed and manufactured from South Africa.
I will not go  back to agricultural issue which we dealt with last week, however clothes, computers and other products are still flocking from SA. Even the mercs that we drive after wining tenders are assembled in SA. Despite the exciting and innovative things happening in the industry, outdated perception of shop-floor jobs is increasingly precluding youth  from following the career path. Our generation has, thumb deep in their smart phones, face an even greater disconnect.
The reality is manufacturing continues to evolve with other industries. Many of today’s workers have tech-savvy jobs that ask them to use software in ways involving modeling products with 3D visualization tools, mining big data with analytics, and automating assembly with robotics. From procurement to design, building, delivery, and service, there’s considerable opportunity--not to mention massive room for growth--at some of the companies that can invest in Namibia.
Something has to be done, and it’s going to take more than talking and political utterances. Resurging interest in manufacturing as a career will require a systemic effort, both publicly and privately. It’s going to have to be approached from the ground up, and we’ve come up with a list of  things that will help attract the younger workforce to manufacturing. Things that will attract enterprenuers to like manufacturing than any other industry.
Lets have manufacturing camps- these camps should be funded by government together with Ministry of Trade and Industry. StudentS will be made to compete with manufacturing some goods and win. Research and innovotion will be done from colleges and show casing will be administered by the government
Gamification in Manufacturing. Anytime you gamify something, it’s going to be more interesting and relatable to the youth. Today’s teenagers grew up with games, but not the ones we played several decades ago.
 These games are complex, often requiring understanding and the use of technology. In the past few years, there have been several pushes toward the gamification of manufacturing, the most notable of which being Siemens’ Plantville. Siemens Plantville is a gaming platform, hosted online, that simulates what it’s like to be a plant manager.
The goal is to improve productivity, quality, safety, on-time deliveries, and energy management, and users are rated based on a number of KPIs. The game’s designed for not only manufacturing professionals, but also for both high school and college students. There have even been a few competitions held in high schools. Once some of the games are played openly they condition the student to become manufacturers.
Vocational Schools and Manufacturing-Focused High School Classes. Students have been taking technology-oriented classes for years, but there’s certainly something to be said for very specific skills-training classes offered within high schools.
Things like vocational schools and manufacturing-focused classes provide technical training and know-how, essentially giving students a taste for what the careers entail and even preparing them for entry-level positions.
Vocational schools have been around for decades, but recently they’ve gotten more attention. In some programs in VCT or NIMT colleges students can take college courses with a lower high school grades—sometimes taking five years to graduate rather than four—and leave with both a high school diploma.
Perhaps, in this respect, we should also take a page out of the German manufacturing handbook, where the country’s putting a lot of effort into apprenticeships, awareness, and improving the respect of both students and the broader public for those in manufacturing careers.
National Manufacturing day. This will be a day wen all the manufacturers are represended and responding to question from public. Entry strategies will be outlines with barries to entry specifically outlined. This will create more student in manufacturing and at the end  will suck up  the interest from entreprenuer to run manufacturing  and compete with each other and improve manufacturing. The resurgence of manufacturing  throughout the country to get more involved with their communities, offering plant tours to school and high school students and even visiting schools to get the point across that the shop floor’s no longer a dangerous, dirty, and dark place. You can expect this trend to continue as more public and private focus is put on the widening skills gap.
Makerspaces.nMakerspaces are popping up throughout the country. They’re generally shared spaces where community members can gain access to manufacturing resources, such as tools, materials, educational opportunities, peers, and more. In Tsumeb  community members are in involved in manufacturing. The idea is to provide a safe environment for small manufacturing organizations, hobbyists, and students that transcends the constraints of cost and space, so they can design, prototype, and create things on their own.
Few role models are involved in manufacturing. I can’t think of a single popular role model that’s a manufacturer. Most of the role models we see on television and in movies are doctors, lawyers, cops or simply uber-cool tweens. In real life, we seem to admire CEOs of powerful corporations like Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and Richard Branson.  We have hard of Knowledge Kati back home, Lazarus Jacobs etc most of them making money from services or structured finance and no many from manufacturing industries.There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be like these people, but the lack of well-respected manufacturing figures in our society has a negative impact on our national consciousness. This is a stark contrast to the iconic figure of Rosie the Riveter and the mass appeal of images of tough, hard-working factory men that circulated in the heyday of manufacturing.
Creating this cultural shift won’t come easily and it won’t solve other systemic problems confronting the manufacturing industry. However, it’s clear that unless we change the perception of manufacturing, the skills gap will only worsen and manufacturing will continue to decline.
It may seem a little strange for a 23 year old to write about why the youth should join manufacturing without being a part of it himself. In my opinion, however, this drives the point home. I could have been an asset to the manufacturing industry had I been exposed to other types of learning and given the opportunity to explore manufacturing careers earlier on.
Instead I was told that I needed to learn how to write, solve math problems and get good grades so I could go to college and avoid making a living with my hands. Because of this, I invested a lot of my own money to put myself through college and started down that career path. In truth, these are the same skills that are needed to be a part of modern manufacturing – and it’s time for this generation and the next generation, to take manufacturing seriously.