Fewer than a third of Americans would choose manufacturing if they were starting their careers now, according to a new survey that finds pessimism about the long-term direction of U.S. industry.
The survey of public attitudes finds technology and energy are the most popular career fields, followed by healthcare and communications.
Manufacturing ranked sixth, behind financial services and ahead of retail, which was the least attractive sector, according to the poll of about 1,000 Americans. A year ago, in the midst of recession and a massive financial sector bailout, those polled preferred manufacturing to finance as a career choice.
The survey was conducted in June by the Deloitte consultancy and the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). It found 30 percent of Americans would encourage their child to pursue a job in manufacturing, the same proportion who said so a year ago.
That is even though large majorities say a strong industrial base should be a national priority with additional investment, and consider manufacturing an important contributor to Americans' standard of living and to national security. Most respondents also said they consider manufacturing a high-tech profession that requires a well-educated, skilled workforce.
They just do not believe its outlook is strong enough to cultivate a career. Those expecting the manufacturing sector to weaken over the long term outnumber by five to one those who expect it to strengthen.
Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute attribute that pessimism to concerns about government trade and business policy, tax rates and environmental regulation, which — they argue — place U.S. industry at a global disadvantage.
"The public seems to be getting over its negative view of manufacturing as being dirty and dangerous work for unskilled laborers," said Emily DeRocco, president of the Manufacturing Institute.
"What the public needs now is stability and certainty from policymakers. Without that, the public cannot commit itself to a manufacturing renaissance in the United States."