Manufacturing Jobs are There for the Taking, but Where are the Workers?

What if someone told you there were plenty of unfilled jobs in America? What if someone told you they were really good paying jobs? Or if they told you, you don’t need a four-year degree for them? Would that surprise you? It shouldn’t, because this is a real problem for manufacturers in America. Low skill, low wage jobs are becoming a thing of the past around the country with a move towards automation. Now is the time of high-skill, high-paying manufacturing jobs.

High schools throughout the country are trying to address the shortage of workers for manufacturing jobs by training their students and advising them to inquire about vocational/trade schools. Four-year degrees are great for the right people, but there are new partnerships between high schools and colleges which can start training students in high school. Students will receive a number of college credits, at certain colleges, after completing a program in high school. Students can normally start the advanced program their junior year of high school and complete the program by the end of their senior year. Graduating high school and having college credits on your record can be a huge advantage. Instead of taking four years to get a degree after high school, students who want to go into manufacturing can normally get their education and start a job within a year or two of finishing high school. The pay for these jobs is almost equal to, if not better than most jobs someone can get with a four-year degree.

So why aren’t more American high school students taking this path? Many think it’s because manufacturing jobs have a bad reputation as being dirty and not well paying. That is the furthest thing from the truth, most manufacturing jobs now are not dirty and greasy, they require more knowledge and less hands-on labor. With Baby Boomers retiring, it is estimated that as many as three and a half million jobs will need to be filled over the next 10 years in the field of manufacturing. It is estimated that as many as two million of those jobs could go unfilled due to the lack of qualified workers.

One sector that has been hit really hard by the lack of unskilled workers is the tool and die industry. Nearly three of four tool and die makers are over the age of 45 and two in five current tool and die workers are either eligible to retire, or will be eligible within the next five to seven years.

One staggering trend is the lack of women in manufacturing. Although women make up around 47 percent of the American workforce, they only make up about 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce. As manufacturing jobs become more technological and digital, women are expected to start exploring their options in manufacturing.

Manufacturers are trying to attract young workers and women to their workforce by showing how manufacturing has changed over the years. Younger workers are intrigued by new technology in factories and warehouses, being able to use apps on smartphones to track data is starting to draw interest from Millennials.

Just as young Americans have the idea that manufacturing jobs are dirty and hard labor, manufacturers are giving Millennials a bad reputation. Many think of Millennials as lazy or not good at paying attention, but in actuality, Millennials are loyal, hardworking, skilled with technology and are always seeking better and faster ways to complete tasks.

There has to be some give and take by both manufacturers and by young American’s, as well as women. All sides need to block out their negative perceptions of each other and learn to work together to make a better tomorrow. A shortage in skilled workers could spell disaster for our countries economy, but the people are there, they just need the right training. Schools throughout the country are trying to produce educated students who are ready to jump head first into the workforce, but training needs to be done one way or another before the workers can start. That is the job of schools in America, it will be really interesting to watch this topic develop over the next couple of years as manufacturing jobs keep opening up after employees retire.