Why Your Kids Should Consider Careers in Manufacturing
By Philip Brown, Marketing Director, Kansas Manufacturing Solutions (KMS)
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a common question asked of kids. Answers are often a fireman, a policeman, or an astronaut, but rarely do kids reply, “I want to be a MANUFACTURER when I grow up!”
This may be because they don’t realize how cool manufacturing is or that manufacturing jobs have evolved. Maybe they don't know a career in manufacturing can be very lucrative.
From the toothbrush and toothpaste you used this morning to the clothes you’re wearing, the lunch you’ll eat with silverware off the plate on the table, to the lights you turn off at the end of your day as you get into bed — and everything in between! — a person had a hand in making — or manufacturing — those items. And many of those people live in Kansas.
MANUFACTURING IN KANSAS
You may think Kansas is an agriculture state, right? You might be surprised to learn that manufacturing generates more than $27.5 billion a year in Kansas. This is more than half again what agriculture produces. As the third largest industry in Kansas, manufacturing employs about 174,000 people who on average earn $60,000 per year in wages and salaries. People take so much pride in their careers in manufacturing, the average tenure in this career is 30 years!
CAREERS IN MANUFACTURING
So, why don’t kids consider a career in manufacturing? In many cases, they (and their parents!) don’t know about the amazing jobs available in the industry. Historically, manufacturing jobs have been perceived as dirty, unsafe and low paying. While that may have been true years ago, that is not the case anymore.
Manufacturing has evolved. Manufacturers today use technology like robots, automation, 3D printing and the Internet of Things. Who grasps technology and thrives with innovative hi-tech devices? YOUR CHILDREN. Jobs creating, managing and maintaining this technology are in high demand while important skilled jobs in the manufacturing process itself are still needed.
Manufacturing offers career opportunities for every education level, ranging from skilled trades requiring a high school diploma, to engineers, designers and programmers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, to researchers and scientists with PhDs.
Check out some of these in-demand manufacturing positions:
- A precision machinist is someone who operates machine tools to shape raw pieces of material — usually metal — to a desired shape. Precision machining uses computer-aided design (CAD) software and computerized numerical control (CNC) machining, which is a computer-aided, high-accuracy manufacturing process. This process provides the most precise measuring and cutting to exact specifications.
- An inventory control specialist tracks inventory and stock changes, ensuring the warehouse operations and staff are working to control costs. Their responsibilities include overseeing inventory, ordering products and ensuring materials are available when needed. Often, inventory control specialists will use an ERP (enterprise resource planning) software platform.
- General advanced manufacturing technicians set up, calibrate, operate and maintain equipment and work with engineers, scientists and managers to improve quality and process efficiency.
- Quality auditors oversee the inspection of products or services to make sure they meet all requirements and standards. They create testing parameters for products and services, develop quality control procedures, perform audits and oversee quality control teams. They also review and recommend new processes, and fix any errors or inconsistencies.
- Manufacturing engineers focus on the design, development and operation of manufacturing systems to obtain high quality and financially competitive products. These systems may include material handling equipment, machine tools, robots or even computers or networks of computers.
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT MANUFACTURING
The kids that love Legos, building blocks, taking things apart, math, science, computers, gaming or coding are often the ones that will find the greatest reward in a manufacturing environment.
Young kids have plenty of opportunities to become amazed and interested in manufacturing. Through the internet, kids can research how their favorite toys are made. See how Lego Bricks are made.
There are shows on television and online that reveal how various items are made. It is fascinating to see. One show is “How It’s Made”. You can access some of the episodes here.
Another method to obtain exposure to the manufacturing process is to ask local manufacturers for tours. Most manufacturers are willing to open their doors to kids to give them a behind-the-scenes look.
While in K-8 and high school, kids can take science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classes to prepare them for future opportunities in manufacturing. Technical courses or becoming involved in clubs such as robotics also support a career in manufacturing.
Post high-school, students may consider earning an engineering degree at a four-year college or a certificate or a degree from a community college or technical college. But keep in mind that employers may focus less on their credentials and more on their ability to learn and develop skills. Manufacturers often have internships or job shadow programs to give students a firsthand look at a manufacturing facility and working environment.
An apprenticeship is a form of training that includes paid work experience and related technical instruction. On-the-job training is one of the most important ways for workers to become competent at many occupations in manufacturing. This training often happens informally, as workers learn from more experienced workers.
Finally, FAME is the premier advanced manufacturing workforce education and development program. FAME helps students become highly skilled, globally competitive, well-rounded and sought-after talent that can meet the unique needs and challenges of today’s modern manufacturing workforce. This training program includes work-based and classroom learning resulting in an associate degree — DEBT FREE.
Manufacturing is a cool industry using cutting edge technology while offering great-paying careers. Talk to your child’s school counselor or do your own research to learn the best way to expose your kid(s) to this exciting industry!