Silicon Valley Has Nothing On Manufacturing

Mon, 04/22/2013 - 8:05am
David Mantey, Executive Editor, Product Design & Development

Manufacturing floors don’t have Lego stations and pool tables – and yes, OSHA may take issue with throwing empty cans from the mini bar into the same bin as the scrap metal from the lathe, but that doesn’t mean that the industry has any fewer engineers flocking to it.

In the column Legos on the Plant Floor?, Joel Hans, managing editor of wrote about the pipe dream painted by Silicon Valley. Similar to previous generations aspiring for a slice of the American Dream, the Valley has promoted enough perks to make work fun — and keep employees around longer than the traditional 40 hours. At least they don’t have to install human nets around the campuses, yet, and maybe it goes beyond the perks; maybe the entire workplace dynamic is evolving.

When I started out as a writer (actually, I started in education, but that was a notable flameout (turns out, you can’t encourage kids to cheat)), I had one rule for myself: It didn’t matter what the job was, as long as I was writing, I would be happy – or at least content, as I would later find.

In my graduating class of aspiring writers (future journalists, novelists, silver-spoon slackers, car salesmen, et al.), we knew that we all were shooting for a handful of jobs available on the market, and even fewer dream jobs. At the time, it was the New York Times, Playboy, Wired, any local newspaper that was a year or two from collapse, and a few dreamers who held much too tightly to the fact that good writing launched the careers of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

Every profession has the dream job that lures the impressionable pool into a given field. While Silicon Valley may be drawing a larger group of applicants than it has room for, the denied applicants will find that life as an engineer in a manufacturing facility isn’t all that bad.

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