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Let’s Debunk a Few Myths about Manufacturing Jobs

Nebraska is looking at excellent job growth over the next two years, and many of these jobs are in the manufacturing fields. This is great news for our economy as a whole, but some people are still a little skeptical that a career in manufacturing is right for them. You see, manufacturing jobs have a bit of a reputation.And it’s often not glamorous.

The clichéd image of a manufacturing job is of dirty, backbreaking, low-paying labor. And women need not apply—it’s an industry dominated by men. Can you tell which of these statements is true and which ones are false? Let’s debunk a few of these myths surrounding manufacturing careers!

Myth No. 1: Manufacturing jobs are low-paying.

This is just flat-out false. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), as of 2013, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $77,506 annually, including pay and benefits. CNBC also reports that manufacturing jobs are more likely to come with benefits, including medical and retirement benefits, than service-sector jobs. They also are more likely to require on-the-job training than jobs in other segments of the economy.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who in 2013 led a congressional report on manufacturing jobs where most of this information came from, noted that U.S manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 12 million workers nationwide. These jobs are widespread, with great pay and great compensation.

Myth No. 2: Manufacturing jobs are low-skilled labor jobs with no opportunities to grow.

Not true! Sen. Klobuchar stated in her report that, “today’s manufacturing workers are as likely to operate robots as they are wrenches, and use math more than muscle—this isn’t your grandpa’s factory floor.”

And as far as low-skilled labor goes, there’s this thing called the skills gap that you may have heard about from time to time. In fact, there is a significant talent shortage in the manufacturing sector. Between now and 2022, the manufacturing sector will need to fill 2.2 million openings for production workers. Half a million of those openings will be for engineers, and an untold number of job openings will be for new, emerging occupations.

In an effort to address this shortage and improve manufacturing technologies, President Obama created the Nationwide Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). It works with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on a network of manufacturing hubs that receive government funding and private-matching funds. These hubs will connect to colleges and universities to educate and train workers in technology—from automotive aeronautics to textiles—that will be necessary for the future.

Myth No. 3: Manufacturing jobs are “dirty jobs.”

Some manufacturing jobs may still require that you get your hands dirty, but a lot of them have moved past the “dirty job” stereotype. Thanks to automation and newer technologies, a career in manufacturing means working with robots and computers rather than working behind a welding torch. Careers in manufacturing today have streamlined many processes, making the cliché about getting your hands dirty unnecessary.

However, if you enjoy getting your hands dirty from time to time, there are still plenty of jobs out there that are considered “dirty.”

“Myth” No. 4: Manufacturing is a male-dominated industry.

Sadly, this is not a myth. Women currently hold a mere 27 percent of manufacturing jobs, according to the congressional report—and hold only 17 percent of board seats and 12 percent of the executive officer positions. Just 6 percent of the CEOs are women. So why is there such a huge gender gap in manufacturing?

In August 2014, Women in Manufacturing (WiM) surveyed 877 women to uncover the divide between young women choosing a career and women with experience working in the manufacturing industry. Less than 10 percent of women in the 17-to-24 age range selected manufacturing among their top five career fields—less than half thought the work would be interesting or challenging.

But that doesn’t mean that women are barred from joining the club! “We need to expand mentoring programs, improve workforce training and strengthen science, technology, engineering and math education so that more women and girls can see this sector for what it is: increasingly high-tech, innovative and critical to the future of our economy,” Sen. Klobuchar said.

Manufacturing jobs are not low-skilled, low pay jobs anymore. They aren’t your grandpa’s assembly line jobs. And even though it’s dominated by males today, there’s still plenty of room for women to join up!

photo credit: 12/6/08 Weld Class via photopin (license)

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