Manufacturing jobs have come a long way in recent years. Technology has made the jobs less dangerous and labor intensive, and have allowed companies to do more production with fewer workers. However, skilled labor workers are an aging demographic, and younger workers simply aren’t interested in taking jobs in manufacturing. In fact, fewer young people are entering the workforce at all, according to the latest statistics. Some U.S. manufacturing companies are trying apprenticeship programs to lure young workers into manufacturing and teach them valuable skills of the trade. This trend started in Europe, Germany in particular. It’s also becoming more popular in the United States such as the Volkswagen manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tenn. Skilled workers needed include trained welders, machinists, and pipe fitters.
About 80 percent of all manufacturing workers are between the ages of 45 and 65. Three quarters of factories report that less than 25 percent of their labor force is under the age of 30. About 25 percent of all manufacturing workers are 55 or older, and only five percent are under age 25. Part of the problem, according to Paul Gerbino of ThomasNet News, is that young workers don’t understand what a lucrative career manufacturing can be. Skilled engineers and technicians start out at about $50,000 and can work into a career earning upwards of $100,000 per year.
About 237,000 manufacturing jobs remain open in the United States, according to Forbes. This is 89,000 more jobs than were created by the entire U.S. economy during the month of September 2013. These jobs are available in textiles and clothing, as well as heavier industrial environments, such as automotive and heavy equipment manufacturing. The work environments are generally clean, safe, and offer excellent benefits.
A good example of how far manufacturing has come is the Parkdale Mills factory in Gaffney, S.C., which reopened recently. In 1980, it would have taken 2,000 workers to produce the factory’s 2.5 milion pounds of yarn per month. Today, technology has reduced that number to just 140. Yet the facility still has trouble keeping enough skilled workers to do the jobs.