Good Pay and Job Satisfaction. So Why Don’t People Believe in Manufacturing?

IndustryWeek is out with its 2015 salary survey, and as they say, it’s “enough to make you scream.”

salary surveyIn good news, it tells us a lot of what we know about manufacturing careers from an anecdotal perspective:

  • The vast majority of respondents (85%) said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with manufacturing as a career path
  • Starting pay is strong, with respondents who had 1-2 years experience having an average salary of $84,354

But in terms of challenges, it’s clear that same message isn’t making it out to the general public. The latest Public Perception of Manufacturing survey conducted by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte showed that only 37% of respondents would encourage their kids to enter a career in manufacturing. But at the same time, the overwhelming majority of Americans rank manufacturing as important to economic prosperity.

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance I’m preaching to the choir on this one. So the question is: What are the solutions to manufacturing’s image problem?

My take: This is an issue that the industry is largely going to have to solve for itself. It’s going to take sounding the alarm, repeatedly, that our industry is desperately lacking skilled workers. It’s going to take building relationships with a variety of schools, colleges, and education-based entities to raise student interest and design appropriate curricula to address industry needs. It’s going to take developing in-house training, apprenticeship and internship programs to attract and retain workers.

And if I may so suggest, the timing is right. U.S. student loan debt stands at approximately $1.3 trillion (with a T!), and parents and students are starting to ask hard questions about whether the investment in traditional four-year education is worth it when costs are escalating and the jobs waiting afterwards are far from guaranteed to cover that debt.

A number of AMT members are proactively taking steps like offering work-study programs – i.e., students go to school half a day, then work half a day, with the company covering tuition costs. After graduation, students are obligated to work for that company for a certain period of time or else pay back the tuition. If a student wishes to continue their education to earn a bachelor’s degree, many companies are offering tuition assistance to help them get there.

It’s time to stop ignoring the problem, or complaining that it’s up to someone else to fix it, or giving in to the fear that training workers means they’ll just jump ship when another company offers more money. Employees who are treated well and compensated fairly won’t be searching for the nearest exit.

It’s going to take teamwork to find a solution. It’s an industry problem that requires industry action. Who’s in?


Categories: Smartforce

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