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Changing the Conversation About a Manufacturing Career with Parents

STEMWhen some parents close their eyes and visualize what a manufacturing career might look like, black and white images of the Industrial Revolution, Ford’s first assembly line, and workers covered in dirt and grime might spring to mind. “The conditions of the facilities when manufacturing was in its infancy were harsh, dark, dirty and dangerous,” according to Manufacturing Talk Radio. Because, when people think about modern manufacturing, they may still think of negative stereotypes from 100 years ago, a stigma the industry has had to fight.

Parents are the first springboard for ideas of what the kids will do when they grow up. But, are parents informed about the realities of manufacturing today, or are they perpetuating a 100-year-old stereotype?

Stigmas and why they are changing

In the Baby Boomer generation, a worker could receive a steady income their entire work life, with only a high school education. When you add people’s perceptions of the jobs being unsafe and dirty, coupled with less required education, parents don’t necessarily want to see their children going into a career where they would be considered dirty or un-educated. For better or worse, factory jobs requiring little education, have mostly moved offshore to countries with lower-waged workforces. The manufacturing jobs in America today require advanced skills beyond a basic high school education in areas like: 3D printing, new technology, automation, and robotics. Right now, the American manufacturing industry needs an estimated two million manufacturing jobs, that are vacant due to lack of skills and education. Employers are not only looking for new ways to train employees in this new technology, but looking to hire people who are studying it.

Student loans vs. Starting salary

One aspect parents can look at is, the hard financial data of going to learn a specific trade at a community college vs. going to a four-year college. The average tuition to a four-year college is $22,000. After part-time jobs and scholarships, the average student loan after four years of education, is $35,000, that will have to be paid back by the student, or their co-signer. Some choose to go for an associates degree at a community college for the average of $8,000 per year, in order to specialize in the manufacturing field, get on-the-job-training and take courses that will help them move up in the long run.

Community colleges can teach students the skills they need to fill vacant manufacturing jobs in a relatively short amount of time. In fact, many community colleges have already formed partnerships with local industry to match students with open positions.

In 2014, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $79,553 annually, more than the average American. Looking specifically at wages, the average manufacturing worker earned nearly $26.00 per hour. Why? The skills needed today are not only new and changing, but can be specialized as well. While some are choosing to go the four-year route, others interested in manufacturing are taking on considerably less debt getting the skills they need in two years before jumping into a career.

What kind of person is the industry looking to hire?

With a large need for skilled workers in the manufacturing industry, just what kind of person are they looking for? Education is important, but so is attitude. “On the plant floor, manufacturers will seek out and encourage workers with strong communication and collaboration skills and who are comfortable with new technologies. Meanwhile, in leadership ranks, manufacturers will value those who can cultivate engagement and exert their positive influence across functional boundaries,” predicts the Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC). This means, that educating yourself about communication and leadership will also go a long way towards moving up in your workplace, along with your education and skills. Here is a short list from the MLC of what the expectations are of Millennials entering the industry:

  • familiar with group, collective, collaborative environments
  • want to learn and understand how to improve, with constant feedback
  • Interested in mentoring to improve their skills
  • Confident with direct management / employee contact

There are plenty of reasons and ways to get into the manufacturing industry. Do you think it will be easy to convince your parents of your career path? Explore more of our blogs to educate yourself and your family about the future of this booming industry.

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