Opportunities for a modern workforce

Friday, March 22, 2019


Parents are eager to see their kids settle into “good jobs,” those that invite fulfillment, job security and financial independence. Many families find themselves struggling, though, with the prohibitive costs of higher education. Even if one secures a good job upon graduation, starting adult life throttled by debt is a problematic formula.

As an executive recruiter with specialization in generalized manufacturing, I think it’s worth considering manufacturing because good jobs are plentiful. 

A 2018 report compiled by Deloitte explains: “For more than two centuries, the manufacturing industry has adopted new technologies and provided new jobs for workers. Today, the industry is experiencing exciting and exponential change, as technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT) are rapidly changing the workplace. While some predicted that these new technologies would eliminate jobs, we have found the reverse—more jobs are actually being created.”

In fact, there are more jobs than there are qualified professionals to fill them, and these are excellent career opportunities. The industry needs young people who tinker-those with engineering minds who love building, constructing, making things work. Our economy needs their expertise to even out the skills gap.

Currently, there are more than a half million unfilled manufacturing jobs. That gap stands to deepen. The Deloitte study reveals: “the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028. . .  Further, the study shows that the positions relating to digital talent, skilled production, and operational managers may be three times as difficult to fill in the next three years.”

I’ve stood alongside concerned industry leaders who’ve been keeping a watchful eye on their talent pipeline. I was alarmed and stunned when STEM programs were cut at my son’s school, disrupting that precious pipeline. 

It should be common knowledge, especially among young people and their parents, that there’s a boon in the manufacturing industry. The opportunities are excellent, and four-year degrees are not always necessary to earn secure, lucrative roles.

Business is booming

The manufacturing industry is thriving. The National Association of Manufactures (NAM) points out: “Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the ninth-largest economy in the world.” Remarkably, NAM also notes that “Over the past 25 years, U.S.-manufactured goods exports have quadrupled.” It’s a growing, thriving and evolving sector. In fact, NAM explains: “Manufacturers in the United States perform more than three-quarters of all private-sector research and development (R&D) in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector.”

Despite the success and growth characterizing this industry, NAM notes that nearly 70 percent of manufacturers report that their top challenge is attracting enough skilled workers.

Jobs for a modern workforce

Today’s manufacturing roles are safe, clean and high tech. I’ve toured facilities and talked with employees and managers engaged in this work. They work in concert with automation, which absorbs rote operations, positioning its human counterparts for the interesting work.  

The Deloitte report The Future of Work in Manufacturing, explains: “As technology replaces many of the manual or repetitive tasks many jobs entail, it frees up space for skills that are uniquely human, often called ‘soft’ skills. A recent World Economic Forum study found that the top 10 skills for the next decade include essential human skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and people management. Companies need workers that can exhibit these skills as well as the digital skills necessary to work alongside automation.”

Training, advancement and compensation 

Many positions necessitate refined technical skills and on-site expertise, rather than a four-year degree. Apprenticeships, on-site job training and skills certifications are some ways that professionals earn the requisite credentials.

Management positions are also highly sought in this industry. These fall under the category of “new collar jobs,” a designation coined by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. These jobs aren’t categorized as white or blue collar; to qualify candidate need to demonstrate fluency and experience, rather than stock credentials including college degrees.

More good news: the compensation is competitive at all levels. According to NAM: “In 2017, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $84,832 annually, including pay and benefits. . . Looking specifically at wages, the average manufacturing worker earned more than $27 per hour, according to the latest figures, not including benefits.”

Good jobs

Manufacturing jobs are excellent opportunities for young professionals. The jobs are interesting, plentiful and lucrative. They position young people to thrive, which stands to make every parent happy. 

Mike Morrow is a partner at TRANSEARCH and the firm’s executive recruiter in the Industry and Manufacturing Practices. Mike’s practice includes conducting C-level retained searches, along with VP-level assignments across all functional leadership areas. Learn more about how organizations are rethinking and retooling their current and future workforce at the 2019 San Antonio Summit on May 9th & 10th. Organizations that will be presenting at the event include Goodyear Innovation Center Manufacturing, Toyota Manufacturing of Texas, Newport News Shipbuilding, Alamo Academies and St. Philips College.