Reinventing Education – Students Learning “how to think – not what to think” for New Collar Workforce

By Michele Nash-Hoff


Our non-profit Industry Reimagined 2030 has identified some prevailing misperceptions about manufacturing that must be dispelled if we want to be successful in growing the supply of available recruits for manufacturing jobs.  These are that “manufacturing is in inevitable decline” and “manufacturing jobs are dumb, dirty and not well paying.”


Fortunately, the importance of manufacturing during the pandemic and advanced manufacturing technologies are changing some of the longstanding misperceptions. The Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute 2022 Manufacturing Perception Study reports “Sixty-four percent of consumers surveyed view manufacturing as innovative, up from 39% of respondents five years ago” and 77% now view manufacturing as more important than they did pre-pandemic.

I recently interviewed Glenn Marshall who is one of our advisors for Industry Reimagined 2030. Glenn Marshall is also serving on the Association for Manufacturing Excellence Management team to help lead a Manufacturing Renaissance. He told me that this “initiative is designed to reduce the critical shortage of skilled workers for advanced technology and manufacturing. He reaches out to business leaders, academia, students, veterans, and policymakers to promote innovative ideas to create ladders of opportunity to make ‘Made in America’ a reality by leading initiatives to design and build things at home, again.”

Prior to retiring, he said that he was the benchmarking/process excellence advocate for Northrop Grumman and Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS). He engaged with all levels of the corporation, supply chain, and the Navy and led the proposal team from NNS to support the Navy’s Task Force Lean initiative. He continues to work with NNS in its outreach to the public schools and colleges Career Pathways program.

He said, “We struggled along with other employers in Virginia and across the nation to find the kind of skilled workers they needed so realized that they had to get involved with the local schools. I met with the superintendent of the Williamsburg James City County (WJCC) School District and arranged to have students tour local manufacturing facilities   part of national Manufacturing Day. These employers showed the students, teachers, and parents the kind of good paying jobs are available and what they could earn doing these jobs which got the students interested. 

Then we worked with the New Horizons Regional Education Center (NHREC) in Virginia and other employers to create an expanded pubic private partnership to provide career and technical educational options for students within the school districts. NHREC is the largest of nine regional centers in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  NHREC has become a benchmark for community partnerships

The New Horizons Regional Education Center (NHREC) in Virginia has engaged in a public private partnership with Newport News Shipbuilding Apprentice School, employers, public school leaders, legislators and families. They are working to provide career and technical educational options for students within the school districts. NHREC has become a benchmark for community partnerships. Educators and families are discovering that career technical initiatives valued by employers can provide an equitable gateway for each student to learn how to be capable of achieving their career goals and dreams.

Glenn commented, “Upcoming graduates will step into a rapidly changing workforce, with a growing number of “new-collar jobs'' requiring specialized, technical skill sets. The future of learning is changing — Beyond creating a world online, advances in artificial intelligence, cognitive technologies, and robotics are upending traditional assumptions about jobs and technology’s role in the workplace. For kids wanting to seize these opportunities, having transferable skills will be more important than a degree. For many, a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math skills will be invaluable. And for some, apprenticeship and certification programs will be essential.”

Glenn also sent me information about Virginia’s lab schools. He said, “These schools are partnerships between public and private universities and colleges, as well as private companies and local K-12 schools. Lab schools that have a specific focus, such as STEM or literacy, or a particular skill or industry, will create learning environments that engage students in hands-on learning.”  My research discovered:  “Legislation approved by the 2010 General Assembly (HB 1389 and SB 736) and the 2012 General Assembly (HB 577) allows any public or private institution of higher education in the commonwealth with an approved teacher-preparation program to establish a college partnership laboratory school…College partnership laboratory schools are public schools established by contract between the governing board of a college partnership laboratory school and the Board of Education.”

I told him that California had passed legislation to re-establish career technical education for grades 7-12 in 2002 (Senate Bill 1934 (McPherson), a companion bill to the earlier Assembly Bill 1412 (Wright), passed in the same year) but it didn’t get fully implemented until 2005. Now, I know of three high schools that teach manufacturing skills such as machining and welding in the San Diego region. The training is a two-year program for juniors and seniors and students receive certifications upon graduation.

Glenn said, “Companies want graduates with an eye for detail, creative critical thinking skills, a collaborative mindset and an ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity. New graduates will need foundational skills in reading, writing math and science, but also know how to think - not just want to think.

He concluded by saying, “To achieve this goal, educators and business leaders must form public-private partnerships and join with organizations like the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the Reshoring Initiative and others to engage in reinventing the educational experience. The goal is to graduate all students with the critical thinking skills to adapt to the evolving challenges of new-collar careers and the ever-changing demands for the future of work.

The Association for Manufacturing Excellence will host an international conference in Dallas Texas October 17 – 20, 2022.  Register at  One of the featured sessions will be an international panel discussing how companies are addressing the need to replenish the talent pipeline with skilled career ready new collar workers. 

In order to achieve the goal of creating five million more manufacturing jobs by 2030, we encourage manufacturers to use the increased public awareness to promote manufacturing’s benefits, opportunities, and technological advances to increase the number of youths interested in manufacturing careers. Manufacturers should emphasize that advanced manufacturing technologies now provide, safe, clean working environments that pay well and offer highly transferable skills that enable career advancement.  As incentives, companies can offer internships, work programs, certification or degree programs, and apprenticeships to increase the talent pool and develop the skilled workforce they need to grow their businesses.