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Contrary to popular belief, manufacturing is not dying, it’s evolving.

That’s especially true here in York County, where manufacturing has long been the engine that powers our local economy.

In the computer age, with the rise of the Internet and robotics, the general perception is that manufacturing is a rapidly declining industry.

That’s simply not the case.

Yes, it’s true that there might not be as many manufacturing jobs in these parts as there was a half century ago.

That doesn’t mean, however, that manufacturing still isn’t a vital part of our business community.

The numbers tell us that much.

The industry contributes $3.5 billion — yes, that’s billion with “b” — in economic activity in the county, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Kevin Schreiber, the president and chief executive officer of the York County Economic Alliance, reports there are 600 manufacturers in the county, with about 40,000 people employed. That’s 18 percent of the county’s labor force, which is twice the national average.

Manufacturing is “inherent to our DNA,” Schreiber said about York County.

That’s all good news.

All the news, however, is not good.

Image problem: Manufacturing has an image problem, especially with the younger folks.

Some believe that manufacturing jobs are “dark, dangerous or dingy,” Schreiber said.

That stigma pushes many teens to dismiss manufacturing as a long-term career possibility, despite the fact that the industry can offer a $60,000 annual average salary, according to Schreiber.

Not surprisingly, that has resulted in a serious skills gap as the current workforce ages.

The manufacturing positions of today are often not the repetitive, mind-numbing, assembly-line jobs of the past. Rather, 21st-century manufacturing positions require substantial technical abilities that must grow with the inevitable changes that face every industry.

That’s why, for the third year running, the YCEA recently celebrated Manufacturing Week by organizing visits for high school juniors and seniors to area manufacturers, so the teens could get a first-hand look at 21st-century manufacturing careers. This year, 19 schools and 500 students participated in the program.

Students receive one guaranteed interview with their certificate of completion of the program, and some companies have hired students who took the tours.

This is an opportunity to show the county’s youngsters that today’s manufacturing jobs aren’t “dark, dangerous or dingy,” but rather innovative, futuristic and technical.

Good-paying manufacturing jobs are out there. We just need to produce the skilled workers needed to fill those jobs.

Manufacturing Week is a good step in that direction.

The industry is not dying, it’s evolving, and our manufacturers and our young people must evolve along with it.

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