Manufacturing careers: a whole new world

Factory worker using tablet to operate a robotic armYou may have heard mention of manufacturing jobs in presidential campaign conversations. Are they just about assembly lines, staffed by workers each performing an isolated task?   Here’s a timely look at some developments in this influential industry.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Anna Louie Sussman writes about the current era of manufacturing. She interviewed Brian Anthony, who is the director of MIT’s master of engineering in manufacturing degree, among many other roles associated with the industry. Besides winning an Emmy award for video software he helped develop, he’s also a leader in a public- and private-sector collaboration for research, innovation and workforce development launched by the Obama administration. From that position, he shared some highlights about the current state of manufacturing in the U.S.:

  • In the last several years, he has seen interest grow significantly in their manufacturing degree programs.
  • A large number of states and education institutions are collaborating to create “education factories” that give students a chance to apply their skills in real-world manufacturing scenarios.
  • In one example of an education factory project, students worked with a local company to refine a device that detects HIV, and then controls medication appropriate to the individual’s needs. This project led the company to keep their manufacturing production in the U.S. while finding ways to produce their product more economically.
  • He notes that graduates of their degree program have started at salaries averaging $100,000, working for many leading companies.
  • The importance of continuous education cannot be overstated in manufacturing. Many manufacturing career programs at 2-year colleges around the U.S. emphasize getting students in to a skill building program that fits their current needs, rather than offering only degree programs. They offer “stackable” credentials that employers recognize and value.
  • While Anthony states that manufacturing jobs will never return to a factory assembly line model, he sees a great deal of promise in other kinds of manufacturing opportunities, for example as robots automate the factory line, employees are needed to build the robots, fix them, and innovate new tasks for the robot.

Learn more from CareerOneStop’s manufacturing-related resources:

  • According to the most recently published industry data, there were 12,040,240 manufacturing jobs in the U.S., at 334,842 manufacturers, and these workers were paid a total of $736,181,809,002 in annual wages.
  • Find out which 13 of the top 50 highest paying industries (by average weekly wages) are in manufacturing.
  • Learn about advanced manufacturing training and education programs in your area.
  • Read up on the manufacturing industry in your area by selecting your state and locality, then choosing “31-33 Manufacturing” from the menu. You will find a definition of the industry, along with the number of manufacturing businesses in the U.S., your chosen state, and in your selected locality. You’ll also find total employment numbers, wages, and the change in employment numbers for recent years.
  • Connect with some of the 116 professional associations related to Manufacturing in our database.
  • Explore the idea of apprenticeship to gain skills for a manufacturing career that pays while you learn. You can use the Apprenticeship Finder to search for contacts in your state.
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