It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry is facing a bit of a crisis. An ongoing labor shortage has left manufacturers short-handed for several years, a situation that was exacerbated by the pandemic. According to Deloitte, “Seventy-seven percent of surveyed manufacturers anticipate there will be ongoing difficulties in attracting and retaining workers in 2021 and beyond.”
As someone who has spent their career in the manufacturing sector, I often find myself befuddled by figures like these. A career in manufacturing has high potential to be satisfying, rewarding and lucrative—it just takes the right attitude and willingness to learn along the way.
With this in mind, here are my top reasons why young and future generations should consider making a career in manufacturing:
#1. You Get to Make Things
As simple as this one sounds, I think it’s an undervalued part of a manufacturing job. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for having made something real, that you can touch and feel, and that someone in the world depends on. Your contributions are tangible, and you know exactly how your hard work has contributed to the final product. That’s not something you can say about every job.
Personally, I’ve always had a passion for wood and woodworking—and that’s part of what has made my time with Quanex so enjoyable and rewarding. Our teams work with natural hardwoods all day, making kitchen cabinet componentry that has helped beautify countless homes throughout the United States. There is artistry to our craft, and the unique characteristics of different hardwoods are different with every job.
A similar case can be made for any manufacturing job. Seeing tangible results from a hard day’s work is a rewarding feeling.
#2. There’s Lots of Room to Grow
Manufacturing jobs foster professional growth at all levels. For example, many companies are happy to offer on-the-job training for all entry-level positions, with no previous skills or qualifications required. If you can prove yourself skilled at operating a particular machine or performing a specific task, most supervisors are more than willing to help you hone those skills and branch out in new directions.
Also, manufacturing companies are like any other business, with functional areas across finance, operations and others. Some organizations offer developmental paths and specific training programs to team members who demonstrate potential for future leadership and other roles. At Quanex, our St. Cloud, Minnesota, facility has developed a program with a local college that allows young employees to earn a degree before starting their careers with our team.
There is a perception that manufacturing pigeonholes people onto an assembly line—but if you demonstrate a willingness to learn with the right organization, your potential is limitless.
#3. You Get to Use New Technology
Another misconception about manufacturing work is that it’s dirty, dingy and difficult. But on today’s modern shop floors, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Over the past 20 years, automation and robotics have helped transform manufacturing plants. Digital interfaces have replaced clipboards and paper. Data capture and analytics allow operators to gain deep insight into the manufacturing process, allowing for innovative process optimization.
It’s an environment that lends itself to folks who think outside the box and aren’t afraid to tinker with technology. And for those who demonstrate skill at some of these innovative new areas of production, there are definitely paths for greater growth and compensation.
#4. It’s Flexible
While manufacturing offers plenty of stable, 40-hour, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work weeks, we realize that such standard hours aren’t for everyone. And given that manufacturing is often a process that runs at all hours of the day and night, flexible shifts are commonly available for those who desire them. Part-time shifts are available, as well as overtime for willing employees—a reliable means to boost a paycheck.
#5. You Get to Be Part of a Team
Everyone on a manufacturing floor is working toward a common goal: making high-quality products in as safe a manner as possible. Ask any manufacturer, and you’ll find that they take no greater pride than in sending everyone home safe at the end of the day after a job well done. This common purpose often creates a greater sense of unity within a plant. Everyone has a role to play—and everyone can contribute to the team’s collective success in being a part of something bigger.
These are just some of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my 30-year career in manufacturing. Sound appealing? Quanex is always looking to add members to its team. Explore our career options.
John Sleva is the president of Quanex’s Custom Components Division (QCC). He has been in the hardwood business for nearly three decades working in sales, purchasing and management with increasing responsibility throughout his career. He joined Woodcraft Industries in 1996 and has extensive knowledge of the business, which was acquired by Quanex in 2015.