You’d think at 70, with a stupendously successful film and TV career, John Ratzenberger would rest a bit on his laurels.
The Bridgeport, Conn., native — best known for playing Cliff Clavin on “Cheers” and a part in every Pixar film ever made — is not resting, but has a busy second career: an outspoken advocate for American manufacturing and job training.
“I think it’s an important aspect of life. I grew up in a manufacturing town,” Mr. Ratzenberger said in a recent interview. “From a young age, I realized without manufacturing, we’re done. It’s important — look around you. Everything you use is made somewhere.”
“It all came out of the ’60s, when that generation took over school systems, and eliminated hands-on training, shop classes,” he said. “That’s why we’re running out of people. The average age (in manufacturing) is 59. The Baby Boomers are aging out. Companies are right now in a crisis mode; there is no training for kids.”
Mr. Ratzenberger will be the first speaker — April 24 at 8 a.m. — at the first-annual Midwest Manufacturing Business Conference, at Bettendorf’s Waterfront Convention Center. He will address the theme “Conquering Today, Competing for Tomorrow,” along with other nationally recognized speakers, over two days.
“We are thrilled to host John Ratzenberger, Donald McNeely and other inspiring manufacturing leaders at this year’s conference,” said Andrea Olson, conference director and CEO of Prag’madik (a Davenport-based marketing firm that works with manufacturing and tech companies).
“These industry veterans are leaders in their fields, and their collective wisdom challenges us all to advance the growth of manufacturing in the Midwest and across the United States — in short, to embrace change and empower growth through education.”
Mr. Ratzenberger will talk about the need to bring younger people…