And How Do Entering College Students View Manufacturing?

Beloit College of Wisconsin has just issued its annual “mindset survey” for the college Class of 2014, a list of cultural touchstones for the incoming freshmen. The college began the survey in 1998 to help its professors avoid outdated references.

The list of 75 observations includes many references to technology, communications and trade, impressions that will shape the next generation of manufacturers and manufacturing employees.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since “digital” has always been in the cultural DNA, they’ve never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. …The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them. A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.

And manufacturing in the United States has always …

P.S. Is the Class of 2014 even a relevant point of reference? From the College Board: “The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tracked the progress of first-time students seeking a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and attending a four-year institution full-time in the 2000-01 school year. It found that only 36 percent of these students graduated from college within four years. And only 57.5 percent of undergraduates who began that year had attained a degree or certificate six years later, in 2007.”

(Hat tip: Bridgett Wagner)

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