Hey, Young People: Change The World ... Through Manufacturing?

Cynthia Bowers is a CBS News correspondent based in Chicago.
If you're like me, you'll be shocked to hear that there are thousands of high-paying jobs out there – and no one qualified to fill them. Even more surprising: They are in the manufacturing sector! America's manufacturers are screaming to anyone who will listen that their obituary was written too soon.

While it's true nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost over the past three decades – nearly 3 million just since 2001 – the economic devastation caused by those jobs losses is huge; at the same time the higher-paying, highskill manufacturing sector has grown 37 percent. Seven million of these workers are nearing retirement, and amazingly, 90 percent of America's manufacturers say they are short qualified workers.

How can this be?

These jobs require strong math, science, and computer skills. Students who are strong at math and science don't usually think "manufacturing." And their parents don't suggest manufacturing as a career option.

Sadly, the young people who are more interested in vocational training usually don't get the math or science training they need for these jobs. So the National Association of Manufacturers has come up with a slick ad campaign called Dream it, Do It, which targets young people, telling them they can literally change the world through manufacturing. They can help develop environment friendly products, from textiles, to automobiles, to asphalt! And they can earn around $70,000 a year doing it. The strategy is targeting young people where they hang out online: YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.

It's an odd conundrum facing America's manufacturers. They can sell their products around the world, but haven't been able to sell the next generation on them.