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Actor John Ratzenberger Presents Keynote at MEP National Conference, Orlando, Florida

Mobile Outreach Skills Training Above: John Ratzenberger with MEP Director Roger Kilmer at Manufacturing Innovation 2012.
“The fate of western civilization depends on American manufacturing,” actor John Ratzenberger told attendees of the NIST MEP national conference, Manufacturing Innovation 2012, during his keynote address in Orlando on May 7.

“If not for manufacturing. . . if skilled workers didn’t show up for work, everything would grind to a halt. People who make things and invent things and repair things are my heroes,” said Ratzenberger.

The former Cheers star and the voice of numerous Pixar animated characters said that the average age of a manufacturing worker is 57 and many will retire soon.

“But we haven’t trained kids or gotten them interested in manufacturing jobs!” Ratzenberger said. “Some of you in the audience don’t have enough skilled workers to fill your positions. The problem is nationwide. We need to bring school guidance counselors to your plants. . . let’s band together and start a huge PR effort to let kids know how cool manufacturing is because you get to build stuff.”

Mobile Outreach Skills Training Above: Actor John Ratzenberger greets MEP conference attendees on May 7, 2012.
Ratzenberger, who worked as a carpenter in his teens and early years, mourns the loss of high school shop classes where young people learned common sense and how to work with their hands and make things that are useful. He also laments the increasing number of college degrees earned in fields where few jobs are available, such as sports management. “Last year we gave out twice as many degrees in sports management instead of engineering.”

“I’ve been told that kids coming out of high school don’t even have the ability to read a ruler,”said Ratzenberger. “Yet jobs for skilled workers are there, about 600,000 jobs are currently available. But if we want to continue as a mighty nation, we have to look at manufacturing first.”

Ratzenberger mentioned the M.O.S.T.® program which rapidly trains individuals for front line manufacturing positions utilizing 18 wheel trailers which are dispatched to the manufacturers facility and provides fast-track customized training in CNC operation and welding. He invited attendees to stop by the Florida MEP (FLMEP) M.O.S.T.® mobile training unit for a tour, which was parked in front of the Orlando Marriott World Center and offered demos of the virtual reality welding simulator.

“You won’t learn unless you put your hand to something useful. Why give out degrees to kids who have no common sense skills like changing a tire or putting together a coffee table or a set of bookshelves, or repairing a vehicle when it breaks down. People who grow up without skills have nothing to pass down. Skills to make something useful is what built America.”

Ratzenberger urged everyone in the audience to help change the culture and bring dignity and respect back to skilled workers, and take action to help kids see manufacturing as an attractive, high-paying and rewarding career choice. “Manufacturing is to America what spinach is to Popeye,” he concluded.

Mobile Outreach Skills Training Above: Florida MEP (FLMEP)'s M.O.S.T.® mobile training unit was available outside the MEP National Conference for tours and demonstrations.
Mobile Outreach Skills Training Above: Visitors aboard the M.O.S.T.® mobile training unit try their skills at welding utilizing the virtual reality training simulator which displays results in real-time.

About Manufacturing Innovation 2012: More than 800 people attended the annual national MEP conference which included 86 breakout sessions with expert speakers. The conference focus was on innovation, bringing hundreds of manufacturers, industry experts and MEP staff together to discuss, debate and share best practices on accelerating innovation in U.S. manufacturing. For more information, visit NIST Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
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More information about the M.O.S.T.® Virtual Reality Welding Program, download PDF here.
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