Manufacturing plays a prominent role in the nation’s economy, but a skills-job mismatch continues to challenge the industry. While some experts consider the skills gap in manufacturing an exaggeration, it’s a reality for employers in Maine and New Hampshire. Scan regional job boards, and you’ll likely see a number of openings in manufacturing: CNC and Manual Machinists, skilled Machine Operators, and Technical Production jobs are in high demand, as employers and staffing companies vie for these desirable workers with the experience and knowledge needed to keep operations humming.
“With the economy improving and production ramping up at many companies, the demand for these workers is big,” said Tracey Chase, BONNEY Staffing Center Branch Manager in Auburn. “If you’ve got the skill set we’re looking for, I can place you in a great paying job on the day you walk in to our office.”
Skilled manufacturing jobs require specialized skills in a trade or in operations that can range from industrial machining to applications engineering. CNC Machinists are in particular demand, according to Chase. CNC Machinists work in setup and operation of computer numeric controlled (CNC) heavy machinery to produce parts and tools from metal, plastic or other materials. Manual machinists, another in-demand job, work in a variety of industries operating drill presses, mills or lathes, for example. While entry-level positions can start at minimum wage, those requiring skills and experience can exceed $25/hour, and lead to higher salaried jobs down the line.
While salaries can be attractive, job seekers can’t just walk into skilled manufacturing positions. Training, education, or experience – and sometimes all three – is required. According to Krista Thurlow, BONNEY Branch Manager in Windham, the demand for employees with technical math, along with trades such as electromechanical skills & precision machining is through the roof.
The need for specialized skills has led to hiring challenges for businesses ramping up and those just recovering from the fog of recession. Vacant positions have even led some employers to target women, as they make efforts to broaden training and recruitment. Thurlow said she has seen more women in high skilled manufacturing jobs, especially in technical positions. Veterans represent another potential recruiting source, as many have the technical expertise and discipline gained in their service that can translate to the civilian sector.
In the current climate, even recent graduates are well-positioned to leverage their education and accumulate experience on the job. “Recent grads often have a combination of theory plus at least some hands-on experience. We do have employers who will hire recent grads who can be trained and developed on the job, and pay rates will go up,” Thurlow said. “The job that starts at $15/hour can become a $28/hour job.”
Wanted: Highly Skilled Workers for High-Quality Jobs
Most industry experts agree that filling the skills gap in manufacturing requires collaboration with educational institutions. By coordinating training with the realities of the job market, community colleges, training programs, and even high schools can better prepare students with relevant skills. In the shorter term, a focus on worker retraining and providing opportunities to current employees can fill voids and create valuable workers.
Across the nation community colleges are ramping up degree programs and recruitment in related areas. In Maine, a bill in Congress aimed in part toward the need for workers in the manufacturing sector was introduced last year to allow tax credits for apprenticeship training. In addition, the Maine House Speaker proposed a $5 million initiative last month, meant to boost the partnership between manufacturers and community colleges in the state. Some employers have responded with opportunities to be certified as part of employment, offers of in-house training, and competitive salaries.
Training for skilled jobs in the industry can be a long-term commitment, but the payoff is worth it. Advantages of skilled manufacturing and machining jobs include promotion opportunities, job security, and good pay – skilled manufacturing exceeded average worker pay in 2013 by 24% according to the National Association of Manufacturers. And, manufacturing is a crucial cog in the wheel of a successful economy. In short, if you are a job seeker in Maine and New Hampshire, skilled manufacturing is calling.
The Bottom Line On Skilled Manufacturing for Job Seekers
If you have the skills, contact a reputable staffing company. Companies that specialize in job placement have good-paying positions that start immediately, and they’ll help you find an employer that fits your needs and skill level.
If you’re seeking a career, consider manufacturing. Local colleges, training programs, adult education, and apprenticeship programs are strengthening their manufacturing focus. By joining them, you’ll be training for a career with longevity and mobility.
If you’re a woman, consider manufacturing. Employers are broadening their reach, and that means positions traditionally held by men welcome women in manufacturing, machining, production and manual labor.
If you’re a veteran, consider manufacturing. Many of the skills you learned will be transferable to high-paying civilian job.
If you are willing to learn on the job, find an employer that will work with you. Ask a reputable staffing company about employers willing to train on the job or collaborate with employees on training opportunities.