New Survey Reveals Parents' Misconceptions about STEM Careers in Manufacturing

Alcoa Foundation and SkillsUSA working together to inform parents about the strong wages and benefits available in manufacturing careers

NEW YORK, Aug. 6, 2015 — (PRNewswire) — Most parents – a whopping 89 percent – think the average hourly wage for manufacturing jobs is $22 an hour or less, when the industry average is actually $12 higher*. It's just one of several misperceptions revealed in a new survey, conducted for Alcoa Foundation in partnership with the nonprofit SkillsUSA. The survey aims to debunk stereotypes about careers and education within Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields and educate people about the rewarding job opportunities in the manufacturing field.

Alcoa Foundation and SkillsUSA are working together to inform parents about the strong wages and benefits available in manufacturing careers

"Parents have some awareness about manufacturing careers, but there are still looming misperceptions about the robust, exciting prospects for their sons and daughters, especially as more than half of manufacturers see a shortage of manufacturing talent," said Tim Lawrence, executive director of SkillsUSA. "Students have plenty of options to explore within the field of STEM education and manufacturing careers, and can earn strong wages and benefits." 

Manufacturing Myths vs. Reality
The 2015 Parents' Perceptions of Manufacturing Survey found that 90 percent of parents worry about their child's future career options given the state of the U.S. economy, and 87 percent believe STEM education is critical for economic success. However, 34 percent do not think jobs in the manufacturing or trade industries require college or higher education and only 12 percent believe jobs in manufacturing are "recession proof." In fact, even though 65 percent of parents say they are familiar with current career opportunities in manufacturing, many are unaware of all of the prospects.

The survey also cites that 89 percent of parents estimate the average hourly wage of manufacturing jobs to be between $7 and $22 per hour. In reality, the average is much higher – $34 per hour – according to the Manufacturing Institute.

Parents also have little confidence in the industry's compensation, benefits and intellectually stimulating work opportunities. According to the survey, about one-in-five parents think that manufacturing jobs:

  • provide only minimum wage salaries (21 percent);
  • don't offer benefits (21 percent); and
  • don't offer innovative, intellectually stimulating work (22 percent).

These perceptions could not be further from reality. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce:

  • the average annual salary for entry-level manufacturing engineers is $60,000;
  • 90% of manufacturing workers have medical benefits; and
  • manufacturing workers have the highest job tenure in the private sector.

Parents also have misperceptions about education and STEM careers. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of parents believe a good job requires a four-year bachelor's degree, but more than one-third (34 percent) don't think jobs in the manufacturing or trade industries require a college education.

Alcoa Foundation's new survey, conducted in May 2015 among more than 1,000 parents, is part of its ongoing commitment to educate tomorrow's leaders for careers in manufacturing and engineering.

Team USA Going To Brazil
With the importance of STEM education and manufacturing careers on the rise, Alcoa Foundation recently partnered with SkillsUSA to provide a $250,000 grant to prepare students to represent the U.S. at the 43rd biennial WorldSkills Competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil – the largest global vocational skills competition. Two of the 18 World Team members will represent the U.S. in the Manufacturing Team Challenge during the global competition. This is the first time U.S. students will compete in the WorldSkills Manufacturing Team Challenge, which takes place August 11-16, 2015.

"Technology shifts and increasing investments in advanced manufacturing are creating a worldwide demand for students who are able to solve complex problems," said Esra Ozer, president of Alcoa Foundation. "Industry needs a strong talent pipeline, and Alcoa Foundation's support of nonprofit partners like SkillsUSA are helping to spark students' understanding of what's possible in manufacturing careers."

For more information on the WorldSkills Competition, please visit or

About the 2015 Alcoa Foundation Parents' Perceptions of Manufacturing Survey
The 2015 Alcoa Foundation Parents' Perceptions of Manufacturing Survey presents the findings of an online survey conducted by Toluna from April 28 - May 1, 2015, among a sample of 1,035 American parents of children ages 6-17. The margin of error for a sample of this size is + 3% at a 95% level of confidence. Some numbers may not add up to 100% due to rounding.


About Alcoa Foundation
Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the United States, with assets of approximately $480 million. Founded 63 years ago, Alcoa Foundation has invested more than $615 million. In 2014, Alcoa Foundation contributed more than $22 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the world, building innovative partnerships to improve the environment and educate tomorrow's leaders for careers in manufacturing and engineering. The work of Alcoa Foundation is further enhanced by Alcoa's thousands of employee volunteers who share their talents and time to make a difference in the communities where Alcoa operates. Through the company's signature Month of Service program, in 2014, 58 percent of Alcoa employees took part in more than 1,000 events across 24 countries, benefiting more than 700,000 people and 500 nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit

About SkillsUSA
SkillsUSA is a not-for-profit association that serves more than 300,000 member high school, college and postsecondary students – and their instructors – in trade, technical and skilled service instructional programs. SkillsUSA partners educators and students with business and industry to help ensure the U. S. has a well-prepared, rising skilled workforce. SkillsUSA has the active support of more than 600 companies, trade associations and labor unions at the national level. SkillsUSA has had more than 12 million annual members since its founding as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America in 1965. SkillsUSA programs teach leadership, citizenship and character development to complement technical skill training.  The organization emphasizes respect for the dignity of work, ethics, workmanship, scholarship and safety. For more information, visit

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SOURCE Alcoa Foundation; SkillsUSA

Alcoa Foundation
Jen Sadowski, Cone Communications, (617) 939-8329
Email Contact | Suzanne Van de Raadt, Alcoa Foundation, (212) 836-2662
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