By Michael Romain
Editor, Austin Weekly News
Jose Aybar, the president of Richard J. Daley College in Chicago, often tells the story of visiting a manufacturing expo at McCormick Place one day and leaving with an 'Aha!' moment.
"I walked up to [huge] machine [that] was turning out about four to five tables," he said during a manufacturing breakfast hosted by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) last month at Freedman Seating in Chicago.
"I looked around for the person running the show for that machine and saw that person working a computer model," said Aybar, who conceded that, at the time, his knowledge of manufacturing was "very, very shallow."
It turned out, he said, that person was a petite woman who was earning $75,000 after having obtained an associate's degree in manufacturing from a community college. And because she had also recently obtained her bachelor's degree, her employer was going to give her a $10,000 raise. Aybar's opinion of manufacturing changed in that moment.
"The manufacturing industry has an image problem," Aybar said. "We see the worker in a manufacturing plant as being that burly fella with greasy hands. That's changed."