U.S. manufacturing - 3 unique facts

Manufacturing industry jobs

There are a lot of misconceptions about manufacturing jobs. Here are the facts.

When you think of jobs in manufacturing, you probably picture sitting behind a conveyor belt mindlessly carrying out a single repetitive task. This is a common misconception about the manufacturing industry – but far from the only one.

Here are three facts that might make you think differently about the U.S. manufacturing industry:

1. Manufacturing jobs are growing in the U.S.

You’ve probably heard that the manufacturing industry in the U.S. has been in decline for years. And it’s true – manufacturing lost four million jobs between 1990 and 2007, plus an additional two million-plus jobs from December 2007 to January 2010, making it the hardest-hit industry of the Great Recession.

But that’s all changing. Since the Great Recession, manufacturing has added nearly 1 million new jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) shows that the number of job openings for manufacturing and production jobs has increased by an impressive 350 percent over the past 10 years – a greater increase than the famously-fast-growing health care and IT sectors.

2. Manufacturing jobs need high-tech skills.

If you’re picturing manufacturing jobs as boring, brainless grunt labor, it’s time for you to join us in 2018. Based on Emsi’s analysis of nearly 400,000 production job postings from 2017, employers are looking for candidates with some pretty high-level technical skills.

Nationally, the most in-demand skills in production occupations can be sorted into four categories, or “skill clusters.” The first is traditional production skills – things like welding, machining, fabrication, etc. The study also found employers are frequently looking for skills related to computer-automated technologies (CAT), which are computerized technologies that aid in the design and creation of products.

The other two skill clusters featured in Emsi’s study were Six Sigma and good manufacturing practices (GMP). Six Sigma is a set of methodologies and processes designed to improve efficiency. Good manufacturing practices is a skill cluster focused around quality control.

While many occupations are becoming more and more specialized, manufacturing occupations are requiring an increasingly broad skill set. Workers must understand the tools of the trade as well as the advanced machinery dominating the field.

3. Manufacturing workers can learn valuable new skills.

Employers are looking for manufacturing workers with a high level of diverse skills, and they’re willing to pay for them.

Emsi’s analysis found that compensation for workers who possess much-needed skills in fields like CAT, Six Sigma and GMP, is much greater than what you might find from a simple salary search. Plus, the study shows that the more of these valuable skills a worker has, the more he can expect to earn.

Decades of declining jobs numbers and widespread misconceptions about manufacturing jobs have kept younger generations from pursuing occupations in manufacturing. This has led to a significant skills gap, as employers struggle to find qualified candidates. On top of that, nearly half of the 9 million production workers are 45 or older, so employers are seeking younger workers to fill impending gaps when the older generations start reaching retirement.

So, if you’re looking for a job in a growing industry, where workers are compensated for attaining new skills, and those skills are only going to grow more valuable over time, you might want to give manufacturing another look.

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