Manufacturing the Smart City

NYC Manufacturing Day Takeaways Part 1

As manufacturing employers grapple with recruiting and retaining top talent in NYC, our industry is faced with a daunting dilemma. The incoming workforce is excited by both the increasing role of technology in manufacturing and the impact technology has on many of these job. However, their view of manufacturing opportunities is clouded by misperceptions, due to a lack of exposure to the industry.

On Manufacturing Day, October 4th, the Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Council (MaiiC) hosted an event focused on ‘Manufacturing the Smart City.” Held at the NYDesigns incubator in Long Island City, Queens, the event offered students from local high schools and colleges an opportunity to attend a career fair, tour local manufacturing facilities, learn about the future of data-enhanced, digitally-connected cities from Siemens, and participate in a panel discussion on how manufacturing will bring us to the future of smart cities technologies.

The panel featured:

  • Mehul Parekh, Product Manager at Quadlogic, which produces energy submetering technologies
  • Alex Brown, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Frio, which develops digitally-enhanced snow melt technologies
  • Nathan Exantus, a 17-year-old student at the Brooklyn STEAM Center focusing on electrical engineering

The learnings from students recapped below offer interesting insight, for employers from all industrial sectors, on student misperceptions and career interests that can ultimately help inform tactics to more effectively recruit a future pool of talent. If you are interested in partnering with employers throughout the city to develop industry-wide solutions to workforce challenges, sign up for the MaiiC Advisory Committee here.

Below are three key takeaways from the ‘Manufacturing the Smart City’ event:


INCREASE AWARENESS: Students who are technically proficient, enjoy technology, and consider themselves makers are not considering manufacturing as a profession because they are not aware of the work, its impact, or its existence in New York

Students in the audience had never seen the inside of a manufacturing facility, and weren’t aware of manufacturers in the area, with the exception of Shapeways. As a result, many of the students with technical specializations had never considered a profession in manufacturing. 

Brooklyn STEAM student, Nathan, explained that once he took a tour and got to see the machines at work, he knew it was something that he wanted to do. “It is fascinating to think that one person can create these products.” As students heard more about Quadlogic’s smart meter and Frio’s snow melting technology managed by the internet-of-things, it was clear that they were intrigued by the emerging applications of manufacturing. Now that they understood the work, they would be more interested in exploring jobs in the field.

Alex from Frio had a journey that echoed this, “I didn’t think I would be doing snow melt systems. But what I love is building, creating, and bringing new products to market. And energy efficiency is important to me. All of these combined is what makes me passionate about the work that we do.”

EMPHASIZE DIGITAL: Students are willing to learn the digital competencies needed to secure a job in manufacturing 

Many of the students in attendance were learning technical skills related to industrial design, engineering, electrical, architecture, HVAC, and plumbing. When asked what students could learn to better equip them for today’s industrial jobs, Alex from Frio replied “Software. Software. Software.”  Alex, a young entrepreneur himself, was a mechanical engineer who had taught himself the basics of software development through free online MIT courses because it was so vital to the emerging technologies he was using in the workplace.

When the panel was opened for questions, the students voiced that they want to learn the skills needed in manufacturing and explored forums and avenues that provided these skills. Not only are they willing to learn on the job, if this technical training is offered by the employer, but they also are open to teaching themselves the skills on their own.

FOCUS ON THE IMPACT: The work of manufacturers directly affects our built environment in tangible ways. Connecting the work with the final output and effect it has on the world excites students –particularly as the production process integrates more digital solutions.

When Frio was introduced as a developer of heat trace controls, audience members were initially confused. Alex brought the work to life when he explained that Frio develops technology that uses sensors and digital communications in order to keep snow and ice on buildings from freezing.

Students expressed interest in understanding the tangible impact of their work that they could share with their peers. “It takes appealing to the values of young people,” Nathan says, “having a cool and engaging job that they could speak to their friends about. Young people would love to say, ‘I designed this, or I built that technology you’re using.’”

If you are interested in partnering with industry leaders to develop solutions to pressing workforce challenges, sign up here.