Reprogramming 4 of Manufacturing’s Biggest Myths
STEM From the decline of 6 million jobs between 2000 and 2010 to a less-than-glamorous reputation, a career in manufacturing may seem dismal—unless you know the facts.
To get to the bottom of modern manufacturing, it’s key to first clear up the prevailing misconceptions.
1. Manufacturing jobs don't pay that much
Think again. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), as of 2013 the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $77,506 annually, including pay and benefits. In addition, a congressional report by the Joint Economic Committee in 2013 found hourly compensation is 17 percent higher in manufacturing than in other industries. The report, referenced by CNBC, also stated that manufacturing jobs are more likely to include benefits, including medical and retirement perks, when compared with service-sector jobs.
Manufacturing careers provide on-the-job training more often than other occupations. Manufacturing also offers flexibility for individuals who prefer a nonstandard schedule. Some facilities run production lines in multiple shifts, allowing for both evening and nighttime work.
2. Manufacturing work is unskilled and monotonous
On the contrary. If you spend any time at an American factory, you'll quickly discover there's a lot more going on than workers cranking out widgets. Research presented in a Washington Post article suggests many of today’s manufacturing workers must be able to operate complex machines, as well as possess math skills and have a clear understanding of how to maximize efficiency. And while there may be a certain amount of repetition, like with many jobs, the top manufacturing workers are not just doing repetitive tasks; they are interested in how to improve a product’s design or production.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers look for manufacturing employees who are detail-oriented, adept at problem solving and able to perform various tasks. These workers also take pride in the products they create.
A report from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute also suggests a significant talent shortage in the field. Between now and 2022, the manufacturing sector will need to fill more than 2 million openings for production workers. Half a million will be for engineers, with numerous other openings centered on new, emerging occupations.
3. U.S. manufacturing can’t compete with China
While it's true China has taken the lead in global manufacturing, the U.S. remains close with China in manufacturing output, well ahead of counties such as Germany and Japan. China and the United States each produce about one-fifth of the world’s manufacturing; however, America does so with only about 10 percent of our economy devoted to that sector, compared with nearly 40 percent of the Chinese economy.
The fact is, U.S. manufacturing workers are almost six-times as productive as Chinese workers and 1 1/2 times as productive as those in Japan and Germany. The best American manufacturers customize products to meet customer needs. They also cut the time required to make them and are continuously improving their design.
4. It's an industry dominated by men
Admittedly, females currently hold only 27 percent of manufacturing jobs, according to a congressional report led by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. A mere 17 percent hold board seats, only 12 percent are executive officers and a lackluster six percent are CEOs.
In 2014, Women in Manufacturing surveyed close to 900 females to highlight the divide between young women choosing a career and women with experience working in the manufacturing industry. Fewer than 10 percent of women in the 17-to-24 age range chose manufacturing among their top five career fields.
To attract more women to the field, Klobuchar believes mentoring programs need to be expanded, and workforce training needs to be improved. She also says science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education needs to be strengthened, so that more women and girls can appreciate the sector for what it truly is.