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Summer 2014
Vol. 58, Number 2
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Got skills? Think manufacturing

"In what's becoming a digital world, there's still a demand for tangible goods," says Brian Herrick of Baltimore, Maryland. "I like the tangible aspect of manufacturing. I like watching how things are made. You don't get that in any other industry."

Herrick should know. He has worked in several manufacturing industries and sees career potential for people who develop the right skills. "Manufacturing can be a great training ground, where you can learn how things are done and take things through production," he says. "Once you develop that skill set, you gain competencies you can take anywhere."

There were 264,000 job openings in manufacturing in March 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although BLS projects employment to decline in most manufacturing industries between 2012 and 2022, future job openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who are retiring. In addition, the pay is good: BLS data show that manufacturing workers often earn more overall than workers in other industries.

Industry experts say there's a need for workers with the right skills in manufacturing. Employers are having trouble filling jobs for machinists and maintenance technicians, among other skilled trades. "We have manufacturers calling us weekly, wanting to hire our students," says Dave Lynnes, president of a welding school in Fargo, North Dakota. Job openings are expected for welders, machinists, and other production workers—but also for workers outside of production, such as biomedical engineers, dispatchers, and truck drivers.

This article is about jobs in manufacturing. The first section provides a brief history of U.S. manufacturing and summarizes how employment has changed and is projected to change. The second section describes occupations in manufacturing and suggests factors to consider in choosing manufacturing work. The third section explains which skills you need for a manufacturing career. The final section lists sources of more information.

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U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Last Updated: June 16, 2014