No industry has risen to the challenge of fueling its own renaissance quite like manufacturing. Efforts to redefine today's industry have taken the form of training programs, trade shows, mascots, social media campaigns, and every other format under the sun, even including a reality television show.
“Clash of Trades” Season Two is an online reality TV competition for advanced manufacturing streaming on IMTS+. Originally released last month on the Project MFG YouTube channel, the show is similar to "Top Chef" – but swap the stoves and skillets for 5-axis cutting tools and AutoCAD, and you're not far off.
The show was developed by Project MFG, a national campaign to catalyze growth in manufacturing employment among the younger generation that’s supported by big names in the industry and, notably, the Department of Defense. The “Clash of Trades” contestants – groups of students from different trade schools and technical institutions across the United States – compete against each other to design and build a specific item that meets certain parameters. In the first season the groups had to build a trophy; in the second season the item is a "five-piece aviation-inspired test system with a custom-designed moving wind turbine," as show host and New American Manufacturing Renaissance founder Andrew Crowe explains in the first episode.
While it has all the hallmarks of other well-known reality TV competitions, “Clash of Trades” is intended to inspire as much as to entertain. "It's more than just a competition," said Project MFG communications manager Lauren Davidson. "The show was created to highlight the trades and expand our reach to the younger generation – to change the narrative on what manufacturing is today.”
If that’s the goal – to change how a sometimes-stubborn American public thinks about manufacturing – then a reality TV show makes a perfect Trojan horse for the message. "In manufacturing the number one problem we are facing is talent," said Crowe. "We desperately needed new ways to attract the youth to our industry and bring awareness to the masses that our industry is high tech, high paying, and in high demand. 'Clash of Trades' is meeting that need and becoming the new standard of how we bring our trade to the people.
"By not only bringing real-life scenarios to life, then gamifying it in competition form, and finally turning it into quality content comparable with the top-watched game shows on television, we are bringing excitement and awareness to our industry like never before."
After all, reality TV already shines a spotlight on numerous other fields and professions – cooking, interior design, fashion, makeup, music, dance ... ninjas. As much craft, creativity, and skill goes into any of those as goes into advanced manufacturing, so it’s about time the spotlight landed on our industry. See how ready manufacturing is for its close-up by checking out “Clash of Trades” on IMTS+. You can also support the show by liking, watching, subscribing, and sharing here. Find more series spotlighting the people and technologies of manufacturing on IMTS+.