Editor’s note: The following was written by Lynette Kluver, director of organizational development at Alexandria Industries.

From 2016 to 2025, there will be 2 million manufacturing job openings nationwide. Today, students and their parents hear repeatedly that attending a four-year college is in the best interest of the children, regardless of which career path they are considering.

What many may not realize is that a four-year degree is not the only option for a successful career. Sadly, today, many four-year graduates are underemployed, finding that their degrees do not align with the jobs available in the market. It is critical to our country’s and their economic livelihood that young people consider shorter-term technical career options to fill openings for high-demand jobs that also provide higher incomes.

To address the skills mismatch of career choice versus job openings, it is critical that we have a reality-versus-perception conversation.

Alexandria Industries is having this conversation with students and their parents to help change the way they think about which post-secondary options they should consider and asking whether a career in manufacturing is even on their radar.

The company decided to host a booth exhibit at the Minnesota State High School Trap Shooting Championship in June. The goal of exhibiting was to educate students and their parents about the career choices they have and how to think differently to get a good return on their student’s educational investment, ultimately changing the misperceptions people have about working in manufacturing.

Manufacturing has evolved over the years. It is not the same old dirty, unsafe, male-dominated and low-skilled work environment it used to be. It is a clean, fun, high-tech, diverse, innovative, rewarding work environment. People who work in manufacturing get to make great things every day.

One great way for people to learn about manufacturing is to walk through a manufacturing facility. Alexandria Industries offers both individual and group tours for students, families and schools.