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Your Next Career: Why Manufacturing Makes Sense

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Your Next Career: Why Manufacturing Makes Sense - Amatrol Article

“So what’s next?” That’s a question asked by millions of workers every year for many different reasons.

Bored or frustrated with your current job? Find yourself in a failing industry with stagnant wages? If so, you may have realized that the career path you’re on isn’t taking you to the destination you had envisioned.

Or maybe you’ve just left an extended period of military service. Many people who have finished military commitments need some help figuring out how to transition to a civilian workplace.

Whatever the reason may be, millions of people each year wonder what career comes next. Fortunately, it’s never too late to find job satisfaction. When you think about how much time you spend at work, you quickly understand why finding a rewarding career that matches your talents and interests is so important.

More and more people are finding job satisfaction in new careers in the world of advanced manufacturing. What about you? Could you find your next career in manufacturing? Let’s take a look at why manufacturing makes sense for so many people looking for their next career.


Manufacturing Stereotypes Are Wrong

Manufacturing Perceptions - Incorrect Preconceived Notions - Amatrol Infographic

What comes to mind when you think of manufacturing? Many people might picture dirty, grungy factories offering low-skilled, menial work for the under-educated.

These stereotypes of manufacturing are quite common and widespread among the U.S. population. Unfortunately, they’re also inaccurate and misleading.

Think about the ways in which technology has changed every aspect of your life. Technology has had a similar impact on manufacturing facilities in recent decades. Advanced Industry 4.0 automation technologies, such as robots, sensors, and autonomous guided vehicles, require working conditions that are the polar opposite of dirty and grungy.

Take a tour of a local advanced manufacturing facility, and you’ll be amazed at the technology in use. You’ll also notice that workers enjoy a clean, safe work environment. Despite this reality, negative stereotypes persist and have an impact on manufacturing.

According to a recent Manufacturing Lounge article, “[m]any people’s perception of manufacturing is so misguided by preconceived notions that they can’t see the incredible opportunities that come with an education and career in manufacturing.”

Manufacturers of Today Are Innovators, Creators, Designers and Critical Thinkers - Amatrol Infographic


Likewise, a recent white paper by Dan Chang, Executive Senior Partner of Lucas Group, notes that “[p]ublic misunderstanding about manufacturing’s future is compounding…recruitment challenges” to the point that a “2016 Kronos survey found that only 37% of respondents would encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing due to a perceived lack of high-pay jobs and advancement opportunities.”

This is a shame, because today’s advanced manufacturing facilities offer attractive work environments in addition to high-paying jobs with plenty of advancement opportunities. According to the Manufacturing Lounge article, “manufacturers of today are innovators, creators, designers and critical thinkers.”

Manufacturers are aware of persistent image problems and have been working for years to reverse damaging stereotypes. For example, thousands of manufacturers participate each year in the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Manufacturing Institute’s Manufacturing Day events. Their efforts appear to be paying off.


According to the L2L 2019 Manufacturing Index, “adults in Generation Z (those aged 18-22) are 19 percent more likely to have had a counselor, teacher, or mentor suggest they look into manufacturing as a viable career option.” As a result, “Gen Z is intrigued by careers in manufacturing. They are 7 percent more likely to consider working in the manufacturing industry and 12 percent less likely to view the manufacturing industry as being in decline.”

College-Educated Workers Are Taking Over the American Factory Floor - Amatrol Infographic


But I Have a College Degree…

Another common objection to considering advanced manufacturing as a potential next career choice usually goes something like this: “But I have a college degree…” It will probably surprise many people to learn that most manufacturers would respond like this: “Good! You’re going to need it!”

Those who might think having a college degree makes them overqualified for a career in advanced manufacturing are probably clinging to outdated perceptions of the types of jobs available in manufacturing.

As noted in the Manufacturing Lounge article, “every technological advance in the way we make things transforms manufacturing jobs into more intellectual and creative careers…factory workers of today work in areas of manufacturing that include engineering, information technology, robotics, design and many other highly intellectualized fields.”



Within the next three years, American manufacturers are, for the first time, on track to employ more college graduates than workers with a high-school education or less - Amatrol infographic



This trend is having an interesting impact on manufacturing. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “[c]ollege-educated workers are taking over the American factory floor. New manufacturing jobs that require more advanced skills are driving up the education level of factory workers who in past generations could get by without higher education.”

Automation is leading the way and factories “need workers who can manage the machines.” Already “[m]ore than 40% of manufacturing workers have a college degree, up from 22% in 1991.”

“Investments in automation will continue to expand factory production…Jobs that remain are expected to be increasingly filled by workers from colleges and technical schools.” In fact, “[w]ithin the next three years, American manufacturers are, for the first time, on track to employ more college graduates than workers with a high-school education or less.”

This is a significant development and research shows that we’re already well on the way to the point where manufacturing workers with college degrees will outnumber those without them. For example, “[a] recent search of all Caterpillar’s U.S. job posts show[s] that more than four in five require or prefer a college degree. A majority of the company’s production jobs called for a degree or specialized skill.”



Your Next Career - Skills Gap - Amatrol InfographicManufacturers Are Hiring

For those contemplating their next career, it’s only natural to focus on industries that are thriving and growing. Why look for a job in declining industries with no jobs available?

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to consider manufacturing as a potential next career choice is the sheer number of open positions available now and into the future. According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) report, there were 477,000 open manufacturing positions as of the end of October 2019.

That number is only expected to grow in coming years due to a well-publicized phenomenon called the “skills gap.” As noted in the 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute Skills Gap and Future of Work Study, more than 2.4 million open manufacturing jobs could go unfilled over the next decade because of the skills gap.

Adding to the problem is the fact that “the unemployment rate is hovering at a 50-year low,” resulting in “intense competition for skilled workers,” notes a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. Brad Kendall of Allegion acknowledges that “[t]he war on talent: It’s there. It’s real.” Michael Winn of Columbus Hydraulics Co. agrees, noting that “[w]e’ve had to get very aggressive with talent acquisition.”

According to Deloitte’s “The Future of Work in Manufacturing,” Industry 4.0 is transforming “work at an unprecedented pace through exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and cognitive automation, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).”

However, the supply of workers with the skills needed to fill these high-tech jobs isn’t keeping up with demand. That’s the skills gap in a nutshell. As noted by Dan Chang in his white paper, “Industry 4.0…is creating exciting, new career pathways.” But there’s a “major talent shortfall” leaving “many manufacturing companies…struggling to recruit needed talent.”

The smart factories of the future will create positions that don't yet exist - Amatrol infographic


A Wide Variety of Roles To Fill

Advanced technical skills aren’t the only skills manufacturers need, though. As Deloitte notes, “[t]he rise of automation in the workplace has brought with it an interesting corollary for skills needed in human workers. As technology replaces many of the manual or repetitive tasks many jobs entail, it frees up space for skills that are uniquely human, often called ‘soft’ skills,” such as “critical thinking, creativity, and people management.”

Those searching for their next career will find that today’s advanced manufacturing facilities need many different types of workers with a wide variety of skills. In addition to positions in human resources, accounting, purchasing, logistics and distribution, quality, maintenance, and facility engineering, “[m]odern manufacturing has evolved to now boast more jobs in product design, engineering and distribution, technology maintenance and information security, science and even finance,” according to a recent article by Bill Williamson of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Moreover, the smart factories of the future will also create positions that don’t yet exist. As Dan Chang noted in his white paper, “Industry 4.0 does more than just use technology to streamline processes—it’s creating new business models, business operations, and revenue streams.”

The result of these groundbreaking changes in technology is a new set of roles that have never been seen before. For those seeking their next career, one of these new roles could be the challenge they’re looking for. According to Deloitte, possible new roles include the digital twin engineer, predictive supply network analyst, robot teaming coordinator, digital offering manager, drone data coordinator, smart factory manager, and smart scheduler.


Manufacturing Jobs Pay Well

Today's manufacturing employees earn higher wages and receive more generous benefits than other working Americans - Amatrol infographic

When you’re searching for what’s next in terms of a career, there are often many competing factors guiding the process. Job satisfaction or a new challenge may be very important, but there’s also a key practical consideration that usually plays a major role: money.

Regardless of other factors and circumstances, a new career has to pay the bills or the search for what’s next will simply continue until you do find a new job that provides financial security. The good news for those willing to consider a new career in manufacturing is the simple fact that jobs in manufacturing tend to pay well.

This should come as no surprise when you remember the skills gap that has left so many manufacturing positions unfilled. Manufacturers are competing for talent and money is one way to lure prospects. As Deloitte has pointed out, “[i]n 2018, 78 percent of surveyed companies reported offering higher wages to attract talent.”

So how much do manufacturing jobs pay? According to The Manufacturing Institute:

“Today’s manufacturing employees earn higher wages and receive more generous benefits than other working Americans. In the fourth quarter of 2013, manufacturing employers paid $33.93 per hour in wages and benefits, while all employers in the economy paid $31.15 per hour, meaning there is a 8.9 percent premium for working in manufacturing.”

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that “[w]age growth at U.S. manufacturers reached its highest level since 2016 in December [2019], rising 3% that month from a year earlier.” The manufacturing wage premium can be even more significant in particular occupations. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics article, “general maintenance and repair workers had a median annual wage of $42,080 in manufacturing, compared with $35,640 in all industries” in 2013.

Manufacturing even pays well for those choosing a career in manufacturing right out of the gate. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, manufacturing’s average starting salary of $56,841 made it one of the highest paying industries for class of 2014 college graduates, compared to the overall average of $45,473 for all class of 2014 graduates.

Manufacturers are hiring highly-skilled people for a variety of high-paying jobs - Amatrol infographic



A Look in the Mirror

Now that you know that manufacturers are hiring highly-skilled people for a variety of high-paying jobs, it’s clear why manufacturing makes sense for so many people looking for their next career. If that’s you, you might be wondering where you go from here.

An important first step is to engage in an honest self-assessment. What are your skills and talents? What do you enjoy doing? What causes you stress? What do you not enjoy doing? Use your answers to these questions to identify the types of positions that best match your skills and desires.

With these positions in mind, research local manufacturers to determine which ones might be a suitable fit for your talents and goals. Keep in mind that positions in manufacturing might not look exactly the same as they do in other industries.

You may need to demonstrate to a manufacturer how your particular skillsets make you the perfect candidate for an available position. For example, a journalist looking for her next career might find a perfect fit as a public relations manager for a manufacturer.



The skills manufacturers need are evolving with the massive technology changes brought by Industry 4.0 - Amatrol infographic



Make Sure You Have the Skills You Need

Keep in mind, though, that the skills manufacturers need are evolving with the massive technology changes that are occurring as Industry 4.0 continues to transform the future workplace. Even the most highly-skilled and educated workers may still need to acquire additional skills to thrive in the modern advanced manufacturing facility.

Those seeking their next career in manufacturing will do well to adopt a lifelong learning mindset. If you’re not willing to learn new skills now and to continue to do so into the future, you’ll quickly be left behind those who do consistently update their skillsets.

This holds true even for highly-skilled veterans who are transitioning from active duty military service to a new civilian career. According to a recent report by the Strada Education Network, Gallup, and the Lumina Foundation, “[t]he United States military is the single, largest provider of education and training in the country. Yet, for the U.S. veteran population…there can be a disconnect between the education and training they receive in the military and the credit they receive in the civilian world.”



United States military veterans are far more likely than non-veterans to hold non-degree credentials, including certificates and certifications - Amatrol infographic



For example, the report notes that “United States military veterans are far more likely than non-veterans to hold non-degree credentials, including certificates and certifications.” While such credentials might not translate easily to certain industries, they can actually lead to greater employability and higher wages for veterans seeking a new career in manufacturing.

Manufacturers view industry-standard certificates and certifications as proof of training for the skills they seek. In fact, many manufacturers prefer particular certifications for specific positions that require unique skills.

An applicant with a certification that evidences training for special skills a manufacturer needs will be more attractive than an applicant with a degree that doesn’t necessarily reflect specific preparation for a particular position.

When you find a manufacturing position that looks promising, don’t get discouraged if it looks like you’ll need additional training to succeed. There are many options available today for those seeking to supplement their skills, including degree and non-degree programs, apprenticeships, and industry-standard certification programs.




How Amatrol Can Help

With more than 30 years of experience, Amatrol remains the world’s leader in technical training solutions. What sets Amatrol apart is its dedication to providing comprehensive training systems that can integrate in-depth multimedia eLearning curriculum with robust trainers that teach hands-on skills with real-world industrial components.

For example, Amatrol offers training systems for a wide variety of in-demand skill sets useful throughout manufacturing, including popular areas like electrical, electronics, fluid power, mechanical, mechatronics, and automation.

While Amatrol does not sell its training systems directly to individuals, its worldwide network of distributors can help individuals find educational institutions and training programs that use Amatrol training systems to teach the skills manufacturers need.

Visit Amatrol online to learn more about its partnership with key organizations that provide industry-recognized certifications, including the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) and the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA).

You can also check out Amatrol’s News section to read more about the latest trends and updates regarding manufacturing and how Amatrol is helping both industry and education to bridge the skills gap. If you want the latest updates on all things Amatrol, feel free to also follow us on social media (links in bio below).


About Duane Bolin

Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

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