August 14, 2006


Factory Shift: Manufacturers Struggle to Fill Highly Paid Jobs (Molly Hennessy-Fiske, August 14, 2006, LA Times)

Daniel McGee's parents were apprehensive when their son turned his back on the four-year college degree they always assumed he would earn. They figured a bachelor's degree was the key to success in the modern economy, and their son was on track to earn one, with athletic honors, a 3.0 grade point average at his Minnesota high school and scholarships in hand.

But as McGee saw it, his future lay in the old-world industry of metalworking. And to succeed, he would have to do something that would shock many parents: turn down the scholarships and study machine-tool technology at a two-year technical college.

McGee, 21, realized what many American workers are missing: Manufacturing, long known for plant closings and layoffs, is now clamoring for workers to fill high-paying, skilled jobs. While millions of manufacturing jobs have been outsourced or automated out of existence during the past decade, many of the remaining jobs require higher skills and pay well — $50,000 to $80,000 a year for workers with the necessary math, computer and mechanical abilities.

Some manufacturers are so desperate for workers who can program, run or repair the computers and robots that now dominate the factory floor that they are offering recruitment bonuses, relocation packages and other incentives more common to white-collar jobs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 14, 2006 10:00 AM

Canada and Australia use a points system.

Posted by: Gideon at August 14, 2006 12:07 PM

This has been coming for a long time. 10 years ago the average millwright was 56 years old. While we don't need as many as we used to some manufacturing will not move off-shore for various reasons and the pool of apprentices has dried up.

One thinks that we will come to understand that not every kid in college belongs there and that there is nothing demeaning at all in much of today's manufacturing workforce. Frankly, I learn a lot more from the 25 year old toolmakers I meet than I do from the 25 year old sociology grad students I come across.

Posted by: jeff at August 14, 2006 2:23 PM

Time to introduce a third shirt collar color to describe technical workers. Perhaps tan or grey.

Posted by: erp at August 14, 2006 3:47 PM

The couple we sold our house to was a new grad w/a masters from U of Chicago and an MD in residency.

My husband, the home inspector and I sat around the table and laughed at those who have advanced degrees - and most probably big debt.

Where else can you go in, make 6 figures and be home for a sane dinner hour and most weekends on a consistent basis? And overall, much less stress?

Posted by: Sandy P at August 14, 2006 7:07 PM

This has indeed been a long time in coming. When I worked in plant maintenance 12 years ago most of the guys were in their 50s or even 60s. They were making too much to retire with overtime being what it was. But eventually they did. As OJ said, it was interesting to note how many were immigrants from places like Germany and Italy. Those places had great apprenticeship programs. Their loss was out gain.

Posted by: JAB at August 15, 2006 2:21 AM