Factories Scour for Skilled Workers to Sustain Production

Expanding Manufacturing Must Train Workers to Meet Demand

As factory orders rise, the manufacturing industry has jobs to fill and a lack of skilled workers. Despite the potential for high-paying salaries, manufacturing positions don’t have the allure they used to.

Manufacturers are both elated and scared. The economy is stirring, manufacturing is gearing up and yet, owners are getting worried. Orders are coming in and production is increasing, all according to plan—but the workforce isn’t catching up.

Director of the New Jersey Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network, Meredith Aronson, reports that manufacturers “are coming back,” except there aren’t enough qualified workers to keep up the pace. Nostalgia aside, the manufacturing sector has the potential to curb unemployment if—and only if—unemployed workers get the manufacturing training they so desperately need. And boy, do they need it.

Throughout plants across the Southeast, Advanced Technology Services (ATS) hired more than 1,000 workers that required manufacturing plant training to maintain computer-controlled equipment. The South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance is pleased to see a comeback. From 2011 to 2012, South Carolina alone added 9,500 manufacturing jobs, and many of them need technical skills and safety training.

Although ATS staffs factories throughout the U.S., the company sees the highest demand for skilled workers in the Southeast, from Illinois down to Mississippi and Georgia. Georgia’s manufacturing industry saw real growth in 2010, but Republican Gov. Nathan Deal recognizes the necessity to educate the workforce with maintenance and industrial safety training to sustain recovery.

Gov. Deal responded with a marketing partnership promoting careers in manufacturing among Georgia youth called Go Build Georgia. The stigma working against the manufacturing trade tends to make young people and their parents shy away from factory jobs and plant work, but these jobs can be lucrative. Technical colleges with two-year degrees and multi-craft maintenance training can yield $55,000 a year salaries right out of the gate. Of course there are some discrepancies.

High-tech manufacturing positions—aka computers, electronics, pharmaceuticals, aerospace products—pay more than low-tech manufacturing jobs. In fact, a geographic layout of manufacturing salaries done by MSNBC said the rate of pay is determined by the kinds of factories operating in the region.

The top 6 areas that report the highest-paying manufacturing gigs are as follows:

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (Silicon Valley)

Average manufacturing wage: $144,899

Industry focus: computers and electronics

2. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.

Average manufacturing wage: $95,507

Industry focus: aerospace, machinery, computers and electronics

3. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.

Average manufacturing wage: $91,761

Industry focus: computers, electronics, food and pharmaceuticals

4. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

Average manufacturing wage: $88,026

Industry focus: computers and electronics

5. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.

Average manufacturing wage: $87,502

Industry focus: computers, electronics and pharmaceuticals

6. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.

Average manufacturing wage: $82,415

Industry focus: computers, electronics, fabricated metals and food

Although this data might be somewhat skewed by a few top-level employees, and the cost of living has an impact, these salaries show the room for growth among high-tech manufacturing. We’ll bet some if not all of these regions have invested in factory education and plant maintenance training.

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