According to Trading Economics, the US unemployment rate dropped to a 16-year low in May 2017. “The US unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent in May 2017 from 4.4 percent in the previous month and below market expectations of 4.4 percent.” This was the lowest jobless rate since May 2001.
This means that most of us are working, which is great news. But for the remaining 4.3 percent, there are plenty of jobs to be had in manufacturing. While advances in technology have eliminated the need for some jobs, and completely replaced others, a significant number of manufacturing jobs are currently available to those with the necessary skills.
In fact, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), U.S. companies are predicted to be facing two million job vacancies by 2025. And, the American Welding Society believes that manufacturing industries will need upwards of 300,000 welders and welding instructors by the year 2020.
It’s Not About the Money
According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2016, the average salary earned by welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers was $39,390 per year, or $18.94 per hour. Of course, it should be noted that wages vary depending on the worker’s experience and skill level, the industry, the location, and the size of the company. Overall, it’s a stable profession, with a demand for skilled workers. So, where are they all?
Unfortunately, the way the manufacturing industry has been portrayed in society over the years doesn’t paint it in the best light. Many people grow up believing that, in order to be successful, financially stable, and happy in a career, they must follow a specific path. And, that path is often obtaining a degree in one of several popular areas, such as business finance, marketing, engineering, law, or education.
Manufacturing jobs and other trades, along with retail and construction are mentioned nowhere in this list. But why? Because people aren’t aware of the opportunities that exist within the industry. Younger generations aren’t being encouraged to get into the field, because it is improperly portrayed as less lucrative than the popular areas of study mentioned previously.
So we’re ultimately left with a pool of jobseekers that either, a) aren’t aware these jobs exist, b) aren’t qualified to fill them, or c) don’t think they’re worth pursuing. So, what can be done? Let’s talk about how members of the industry can promote manufacturing employment, based on these three scenarios.
- Lack of Awareness
For jobseekers who aren’t aware of the different types of manufacturing jobs available, those in the industry need to increase efforts to educate the public. Manufacturing companies can offer internships and apprenticeship opportunities to local educational institutions. In addition, manufacturing firms can offer better incentives to attract highly qualified candidates, and/or those with the potential to be easily trained.
- Lack of Skills
While some manufacturing jobs require past experience, others can be learned through on-the-job training. For jobseekers who don’t possess the skills and training necessary to fill the vast number of jobs available, it is up to educators and members of the industry to work together to change this. Educational institutions can expand their offerings to include more trade programs, while manufacturing companies can provide better tuition reimbursement plans and in-house training programs to encourage new and existing employees to increase their skill levels.
- A Misguided Image of the Industry
The third factor contributing to the shortage of skilled labor in the manufacturing industry is our perception of the manufacturing industry, and how we pass this misguided image down to the younger generations. Society doesn’t portray manufacturing jobs accurately. Instead, they are portrayed as significantly lower-paying jobs, done in a less-than-ideal working environment, and done mostly by men. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
With manufacturing companies, educators, and society working together to promote, educate, and correct the image of the manufacturing industry, there may be a chance to increase the number of appropriately skilled jobseekers to meet future demands.