Full Show Notes
More and more seems to be changing every day, and there’s no telling what long-term impact COVID-19 will have on the world our teenagers are going to inherit. All parents want their teenagers to be happy and successful in their personal and professional lives, but now more than ever, there’s a lot at stake. With an uncertain job market, a surplus of college-educated job seekers, and rising student debt, it isn’t clear for many parents what path their teen should go down.
Luckily, there are certain skills, attitudes, and practices parents can instill in their teenagers to help them be successful no matter what. And, better yet, there are tons of opportunities for a lucrative career and fulfilling life even without an expensive degree! In fact, certain job markets—manufacturing, for instance—are not only in high demand, but incredibly lucrative! The average manufacturing working earns over $80,000 a year, including benefits, and doesn’t necessarily require an expensive four-year degree.
For more on how today’s teens can enter adult life ready for success, I spoke with Terry Iverson, author of Finding America’s Greatest Champion: Building Prosperity Through Manufacturing, Mentoring and the Awesome Responsibility of Parenting. Terry himself has worked in manufacturing for decades and knows exactly what the industry has to offer to young adults. Moreover, Terry knows from his personal experience as a dad, coach, and public speaker how to help teenagers find and pursue careers that matter to them.
Terry grew in a single-parent household in Florida, and in high school he found himself working a late-night job, playing competitive sports, and taking AP courses all at the same time. He learned the values of hard work and accountability firsthand from an early age, and he encourages today’s parents to instill the same wisdom into their teenagers. He also maintains the importance of supporting teenagers by helping them find vocations that make them happy. More than anything, Terry knows that to be truly invested in something, you have to enjoy it first!
This might mean your teenager has something different in mind than what you want for them. Even though you might be set on sending your teen to an Ivy League college, what’s the point if they’re going to burn out and not use their degree? Rather than set these kind of predetermined expectations, Terry thinks a parent’s most important job is to help their teen research and experience a diverse array of trades to help them decide what they do—or don’t!—enjoy. Not only will this set them up for a successful career, but a gratifying and meaningful personal life.
On top of this, Terry offers great opinions on several different topics, including:
- What teens can do to research their futures
- The importance of internships and early jobs
- The reality of four year colleges
- How to instill work ethic in teens
- Single parent households
Terry’s passion, well-researched statistics, and personal anecdotes provide an incredibly optimistic outlook during today’s wavering circumstances. If you’re feeling nervous about sending your teen into such an uncertain world, you need to hear what Terry has to say!
Complete Interview Transcript
Andy: So the book is Finding America’s Greatest Champion: Building Prosperity Through Manufacturing, Mentoring, and the Awesome Responsibility of Parenting. You did a whole bunch of research, there’s statistics and facts in here. What inspired you to write Finding America’s Greatest Champion?
Terry: Well, first of all, let me say that I’m really stoked to get to someone like you because your audience is the audience I’m trying to reach. I’ve been in manufacturing for now, this is my 40th year and mentoring young people has been a big part of my life. I used to be a travel soccer coach, and I mentored a lot of both young men and young women. And so when I retired from that, I decided to try to connect with my corporate world with young people, so I dove into the technical education side. I was interacting with a lot of teachers and high schools and community colleges. And then I realized that there’s a void with young people in our industry. They just don’t know about the opportunities in our industry. And then I grew up with a single parent, and so I had a lot of mentoring and opportunities that teachers and coaches reached out to me. And so I wanted to pass it forward to the next generation and try to be an advocate for mentoring, just like I had assistance when I was young.
Andy: Okay. So talk to me about manufacturing. Don’t we live in now a service based economy, so we don’t need that anymore, right, Terry?
Terry: So yeah, you’re kind of leading me down the path of making my point and thank you for that. We’re not a service based economy. Manufacturing is critically important to our country, and always has been. And yes, somewhere along the way, you’re right, Andy, somebody said we were going to be a service based economy, and that’s a very dangerous thing to do to our country because the middle class is the bread and butter of the United States. So the more manufacturing dissipates or diminishes, the more our middle class diminishes. Us manufacturers and us in the manufacturing community, we haven’t really done a very good job of making sure that the general public understands us and understands what we need and what we have to offer. And then the media doesn’t make it any better. I don’t think they’re intentionally doing it.
Terry: I don’t think they know the impact of what they’re doing because all the most of the media does is preached that everything’s going to China chant. And some of that’s true, but a lot of it is, there’s a deeper story than just that. And a lot of the government and a lot of the media only measures manufacturing by employment numbers. And that’s a part of it, but that can’t be the whole story. It’s far from the whole story. There’s still about somewhere between 11 and 12 million people in manufacturing in this country. I think it’s probably somewhere around 10 to 12 percent of the workforce is my guess.
Terry: Maybe as low as nine percent, but it’s somewhere in there.
Terry: But the impact of manufacturing careers is way greater than just the number of workers or employees. I think the most telling statistic, Andy, that you might’ve read is that if you measured the US manufacturing economy on its own separate from everything else of the US economy, and if you measured it against the rest of the world’s entire countries economic footprint, the US manufacturing economy would be number eight in the world, just by itself.
Andy: So, but mostly we’re just talking about pretty low paying jobs there, right? In that sector?
Terry: No. No, that’s not the truth. The average manufacturing job with benefits is about $82,000 a year. Now having said that, keep in mind, that’s the average. So you have salaries that are way higher than that. And yes, you do have salaries way lower than that.
Terry: But the average, which would indicate tenure. I mean, people don’t walk into our industry making $82,000 a year with benefits just by showing up and not knowing anything. You have to have skills.
Andy: Right. But so that compares to non-manufacturing jobs, which you right here on page 54, have an average of just $64,000 per year with benefits. So actually manufacturing jobs are significantly better pay than the average jobs in other sectors.
Terry: They are. They are and when I talk to high school students, Andy, I’ll go into a room… And I just went on the South side of Chicago recently, like March 3rd or fourth, right before the lockdown. And I said, “How many of you know anything about manufacturing?” And it was a group of about 20 young men. And two, only two, raise their hand? And it was kind of like, they’re embarrassed to raise their hand. And I said, “You’re a bunch of young men. I’m sure you’re interested in athletics and sports and et cetera.” I said, “So what if I have one ticket to the NBA championship game? Is this ticket going up in price or going down in price?” They all raise your hand. “It’s going up in price.”
Andy: Up, yeah.
Terry: I said, “Exactly.” I said, “So what happens in the manufacturing sector guys, is that we have probably 600,000 positions around the country that are unfilled right now. And over the next 10 years, we’ll have probably two and a half million manufacturing positions go unfilled. So when you have an applicant that stands up and says, ‘I’ve gone through training and I want to be a manufacturing,’ and you have all these people wanting the one person or the one ticket, what happens to that salary just like the ticket to the NBA championship?” And they all go, “It goes up, Mr. Iverson. It goes up.” And I go, “Exactly.” So over time, the more void that we have in manufacturing, the more those salaries are going to go up.
Andy: And you think that that void is going to increase in the next 10 years?
Terry: I think it is, but there’s a whole new component to it since I wrote the book, and over the last, well, the COVID-19 thing’s been over the last two or three months, right?
Terry: So what I think is going to happen now is that more companies… With the latest scenario that we’ve had Andy, through the inability to get things from overseas because of the COVID-19 crisis and with the sentiment with China, which obviously there’s not necessarily positive sentiment right now, that you’re going to find more companies and more of the consumers are going to be a lot more educated through all of this. And there’s going to be more of a requirement or a desire to move things back into the country-
Andy: Yeah, right. Keep things local, keep things made here.
Terry: Yeah. I think people have suffered the pain of not being able to get, whether it’s ventilator parts, or masks, or whatever the case may be. I think people have realized that and the general public is now starting to realize that. And so I think there’s going to be more of an interest to have things made in the US. It’s a very painful lesson that we’ve gone through, but that’s one of the things I think that’ll come out of this terrible scenario that we’re in right now, and that’ll make even more desire for more manufacturing jobs to be available.
Andy: You have an interesting graphic here on page 56, it says, “Over 70 percent of Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong economy and national defense. And 77 percent of Americans fear the loss of domestic manufacturing jobs to other nations, but only 30 percent of parents encourage their kids to enter manufacturing. And only 17% of people view it as a top career choice.” So, interesting juxtaposition there.
Terry: That’s very well said. There’s a disconnect in a couple of different ways. The disconnect that exists is let’s talk about education for a minute. In this country right now, the only success path that we preach from the schools is you have to go to four year college.
Terry: So, and that’s what the educational system designates as the path, and all the parents, that’s what they think is the path. And it’s not that they’re intentionally doing something that’s incorrect. I mean, that’s the path that’s been like that for a long time. Well, what’s happening in the workforce is that the four year college degree is not the only path to success and a lot of young people are going down that path, but they come out and they have a degree… And many times the parents have gone into debt or they’ve gone into debt.
Terry: And we can talk quite a long time about the student debt crisis. But they come out and the degree that they have is not worth what they thought it was.
Terry: And so there’s a lot of people and I’ll go back to manufacturing as a example, there’s a lot of people that want skill. And this is not about that you don’t need education. It’s you need the relevant education that will get you a good paying job. And yes, manufacturing is a part of that. So if young people come out into workforce and let’s go back to that Chicago Bull NBA championship ticket, and they come out and there’s a hundred applicants for five positions. Now the salary is going to go down.
Terry: Right? Just like the ticket price would go down. Consequently young people are coming out a hundred thousand dollars in debt. They can’t get a job. They have to live with their parents. They can’t buy a car. They can’t buy a house. They can’t start a family. And so I think we’ve done a major disservice to our young people, by not understanding the relevancy of which education is right for which young person, because they’re all different. Back to my example of the young person, the young men, only two of which had any idea of manufacturing. There should be maybe 10 of them, manufacturing is the wrong path. But maybe 10 of them, manufacturing is the right path.
Terry: So, manufacturing is perceived as a dark, dingy, dangerous, dead end type job. And that’s not the case. There’s plenty of opportunity. There’s plenty of money in terms of good paying careers. And there’s plenty of challenges. And we just need this disconnect that’s going on between education, parents, students in industry is unfortunate. And that’s one of the things I’m trying to help change.
Andy: Okay. So you talk about how in your interview with Laz Lopez, if you’re starting school now, most of the jobs that you’ll be participating in may not have even existed. Think of all the jobs happening currently that we never even knew of, or had never even heard of three to five years ago in the technology industry. So how do we prepare kids to succeed in a work environment that is changing so rapidly, where the work that they’re doing might not even exist yet?
Terry: Wow, that’s a mouthful and that’s a great question. First of all, I think one of the things that this generation is missing is they’re not being taught to be problem solvers. At least that’s my opinion. And regardless of what the subject is, regardless of what the career is, if you can problem solve and critical, think, and analytically think, you’re going to be prepared for anything.
Terry: So in manufacturing specifically, problem-solvers are in huge demand. If you can problem solve, and if the manufacturing process or the engineering process or any component thereof, if you have critical thinking skills and problem solving, you’re going to be very valuable, no matter what the job title is.
Andy: And so how do you know, like when you’re interviewing somebody for a job, whether they have those critical thinking and problem solving skills?
Terry: Well, I think the easy answer is you don’t. I think that things have gotten a lot more cumbersome with this generation, each generation in the latest generations, in that they’re not… The good thing is, technology, they’re very savvy. Okay.
Terry: The downside is their communication skills and their ability to express themselves is getting not better, but worse. So when they go into an interview, most of the young people that I talk to, both that I interview, and when I talk at schools, they’re not as savvy as they need to be. So what I believe is to be the solution is that you’ll find internships to become more and more a component of a successful match with a young person’s desires, passions, and abilities to what career he or she wants to go into. I talk about Europe, I’m sure you read this in the book, Andy. In Europe they do a really good job at challenging young people. It’s part of their culture. And they do a really good job to challenge their young people, to understand what they want to be good at, what they’re passionate about, and what career to potentially go down a path early in the game. And unfortunately in our country, most parents, they love their children dearly and they think sending their child to four year college to figure out what they want to do. I might challenge them to say, you know what, encourage them to get into different internships in different facets, in different career sets, and let them figure it out then, 10th grade, 11th grade, in their senior year, either what they do want to do or what even what they don’t want to do.
Terry: It’s not a waste of effort or energy or time. If you go into an internship and say, “Well, that’s one thing I don’t want to do.”
Andy: I for sure know. That is not my calling. Yep.
Terry: Right. And that’s a good thing. A lot of young people say, “Well, that was a waste of time.”
Andy: Well, not quite. Yeah. Yeah.
Terry: And so to answer your question, you really can’t in an interview because you’re dealing with a part of the population, with young people today that aren’t as good as they used to be, no offense, at communicating who they are and what they’re interested in, what they’re good at. And so I think internships going forward are going to be more and more critical for both the young person and the employer or the hiring segment of the market, and everybody wins.
Andy: Can you talk to me about accountability?
Terry: Accountability, I really think that there’s a parenting… I don’t know if I’d call it a parenting crisis, but there’s an element in parenting today that I don’t think existed as much when I was a kid and my parents were parenting me. In coaching travel soccer, and mentoring and parenting my children, I was pretty much old school. My wife and I, we both agreed on how to parent and we, to some degrees were disciplinarians as a group, as a parent parental unit. And we had held our kids, our children accountable for the good things they did, but also the bad things that they did. And there’s an element in parents, in a certain percentage of parents today that they’re more interested in being their child’s best friend and being the good guy, than the hardest component of being the bad guy.
Terry: I feel that there’s a large percentage or a certain percentage of the parental unit in our country that have single parents, or raising children, or both parents work. What happens there in my opinion, is that we parent out of guilt. And parenting out of guilt is a very hard thing to do. So what happens is you feel bad either because you’re working and you’re the single parent, or you’re both working and you don’t have the time for your child that you want to have. And so what happens is you try to make up for those guilty feelings by trying to be your child’s best friend. As a young person, I grew up quite quickly and I was older than my years when I was young, because I had a mom that worked full time.
Terry: And I was mentored quite well by coaches and teachers and family friends, so I was very fortunate in that regard. So if I made a bad decision, well, I had to suffer the consequences. And conversely, if I made a good decision, I had to appreciate the good consequences. So I think one of the things my dad told me, which was very telling… There’s two things he told me that stuck with me for a long time and still do. He said, “Terry, I don’t care if you go out and have a good time, but if you’re due at work the next day or the next morning, don’t, you dare let it show that what you did the night before is going to impact your work. I don’t want you to be late and I don’t want you to be anything less than your best when you come in.”
Terry: The other thing that he said is, “Terry, if you get in trouble, you figure out a way how to get yourself out of trouble. I’m not going to come down there and either bail you out or,” and of course this never happened. Let me just say that. “Either bail you out or pinch hit for you or whatever, you’re going to be accountable for whatever you get yourself into.” So too many times in coaching travel soccer and in dealing with young people from U9 to U19, both young men and young women, I saw the parents try to intercede. And instead of holding their child accountable in suffering the consequences, they tried to get them out of trouble.
Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Terry: And so what a lot of parents don’t realize, and don’t get me wrong. It’s hard. It is the hard way. And parents think they’re doing the right thing and they think they’re doing what’s best. But in reality, I think they’re doing what makes them feel the best.
Andy: Totally, yeah.
Terry: But in reality, it’s hindering and not helping their child grow into the responsible, accountable young adult.
Andy: And so the alternative is leaving them to deal with the consequences of their own actions more, I guess.
Terry: Well, I think what happens is… I mean, I wouldn’t say leave them accountable to their own actions. I think young people need the need to understand the consequences of what the choices they make and learn by them. And that doesn’t mean that the parent kind of strings them out on their own. They need to support them and help them through it. Because I mean, we do love our children, but we want what’s best for them. Now that’s where the definition of what’s best for them differs from one parent to the next, right?
Terry: To dovetail this into education for a minute, a lot of parents get hung up on, no offense. And maybe it’s better said some parents, not a lot of parents… That they want to brag about their young person, what college they’re going to. For some young people that is the absolute best path for them.
Terry: But if you look at the percentages and you look at the numbers, it’s the minority. It’s not the majority. So rather than bragging about going to Harvard, Yale, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Northwestern, whatever, parents should maybe think, “Is this right for my child or should my child be going to a community college or a junior college? Or should they be, if they went into internships in their 10th, 11th and 12th grade years in high school, should they go right into the workforce?” There’s a financial model that I mentioned in the book that speaks to that and shows that 12 years out from high school that the four or five year college degree individual financially will never catch the two year degree individual that goes right into the workforce. That 12 years out, one is 120 to 130,000 cash negative, while the other $90,000 cash positive.
About Terry Iverson
Terry has been working with and mentoring young people all of his adult life. Over 15 years ago, Terry transitioned from coaching travel soccer to becoming ingrained into the technical education fabric of the Midwest and around the country. He founded the non-profit CHAMPION Now to help spread the word about the myriad (not to mention well-paying) careers in manufacturing. Terry travels the country speaking to schools, companies, and state and federal governments about the need for greater numbers of well-educated workers in the manufacturing industry.
Terry is happily married and a proud father of two grown children.