Where are manufacturing jobs?

Where are manufacturing jobs?

Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” a new column from MxD.

Every week, Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.

Please submit your questions to debfromqa@mxdusa.org

Hello Deb: Are there jobs available in manufacturing? And where are those jobs?

It’s hard to look for silver linings in times like these, but all this time spent indoors has inspired me to take up new hobbies and skills. I’m becoming a better baker, for one! I can play the first four bars of Clair de Lune on the piano. And I’ve gotten really good at endless scrolling on Netflix. 

It’s true that compared to 40 years ago, there are fewer manufacturing jobs in America today. But what you might be surprised to hear is that plenty of manufacturing jobs are available, and the jobs might not be what you’d expect.

In fact, I’d bet you a Ruth’s Chris steak that if you walked into any manufacturer today and asked: “Do you have the demand to justify hiring more people?” Their answer, even pre-pandemic, would be: “Absolutely. But there aren’t enough good candidates.”

In truth, manufacturing this day and age doesn’t only mean working on a factory floor or in an assembly line. Our industry has evolved, and working in manufacturing today could mean a job in robotic programming, cybersecurity, or virtual and augmented reality. There’s a desperate need for skilled workers, but our industry hasn’t figured out a good way to fill the talent gap. 

Yet you see images on the news of manufacturing plants with their front gates chained up. According to the Pew Research Center, about 12.9 million Americans worked in manufacturing as of July 2019, down from a peak of 19.4 million in 1979. Many of those jobs have been outsourced overseas. 

All this feeds into the perception that American manufacturing is dead, which doesn’t instill a lot of excitement in our field.

And less appeal leads to a smaller talent pool. That leads to less investment in educational programs, and other countries end up lapping America and becoming the innovation leaders. (You can make the case that Germany and Singapore are considered the education leaders in our industry at the moment.)

And yet by some measures, 4.4 million manufacturing jobs are anticipated by 2028, and 2.4 million positions will go unfilled because of a lack of skilled workers. What this says to me is the industry is rapidly changing, and schools need to catch up to the fact. 

My friend Liz Stuck, head of workforce development at MxD, told me she’s seen a number of forward-thinking digital manufacturing programs at schools like Georgia Tech, University of Illinois and Purdue University. 

Some of the more cutting-edge curriculums are coming out of community colleges: Moraine Valley Community College outside Chicago and Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon both offer world-class cyber security programs, to name a couple. 

Despite fewer jobs stateside compared to years past, the United States is expected to surpass China as the most competitive manufacturing nation. We should stop viewing these jobs as just in welding and machining. Manufacturing jobs today — and the future — will be in roles like digital simulation and controls, cybersecurity and robotics. 

MxD just released a huge roadmap to all of these jobs, called the Hiring Guide: Cybersecurity in Manufacturing. It details 247 jobs in manufacturing cybersecurity and lays out the skills, education and training you’d need to get one of them. 

Bottom line: Our industry has to start investing both financially and collaboratively in manufacturing education. The U.S. basically needs to build an army of cybersecurity workers from scratch. 

We Boomers are retiring quickly, and we can’t expect new workers just to magically show up.  We also can’t just train up people in their early 20s. We need to think differently — like are there manufacturing workers in their 30s and 40s who can upskill? 

You bet your sweet bippy there are. Incentivize them to learn about digital manufacturing if they’re not yet familiar. In our industry, we’ve got to think both short- and long-term.  

Assuring quality,

Download MxD’s Hiring Guide: Cybersecurity in Manufacturing, which identifies 247 cybersecurity job roles and the skills, education and training needed to build a new security workforce.

Check out last week’s Ask Deb here:
I’ve decided I want to get new training and learn a new skill. Where can I start?

Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ‘em to debfromqa@mxdusa.org and she’ll answer as soon she’s done with her shift.