$29.75 an hour. That’s $61,880 a year. Not too shabby.
Manufacturing is one of the remaining sectors that provide high-paying jobs to workers without college degrees. For high school grads, earning potential in manufacturing exceeds earning potential in construction, logistics, and hospitality, other sectors that generally don’t require post-secondary education. Workers in manufacturing can get in on the ground level and work their way up to management positions, garnering raises and benefits along the way.
Is this all about to change?
According to the April Job Report by the US Department of Commerce, the education level in the manufacturing workforce is rising steadily: in 2011, 53% of all manufacturing workers had at least some college education, up 10% from 1994.
What does this mean for manufacturing?
Because the manufacturing sector has begun building a labor force of higher-educated and higher-skilled workers, factory work isn’t what it once was. Today’s high-tech manufacturing industries take advantage of innovative engineering and state-of-the-art machinery—no longer the dark image of 17th century industrial life portrayed by Dickens.
A skilled and educated work force will keep US manufacturers competitive in a global economy and will spur technological advancement. In fact, House candidate Dan Kildee claims that any disinvestment in education is bad manufacturing and industrial policy: “Its just bad policy to not educate the kid who might have the next billion dollar idea. We have to create productive produces in this country.”
Hopefully the up-skilling trend won’t bar the middle class workers it once sustained. Rising education levels may encourage students and current members of the workforce to pursue degrees or certificates in manufacturing-related fields. Grants and scholarships in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education abound, and many manufacturers support employees (via time off or funding or both) as they continue their education.