When most people think of factory work, it is often associated with powerful machines, lots of people, and plenty of grease, dirt, and grime. However, the factories of today usually don’t meet that stereotype. Modern factories definitely have large machines but they are also mechanized and automated better than before and are also cleaner than factories of years past. These changes have meant that while factories of old employed anyone who was willing to show up and perform an assigned task, modern factories require real skills to run: even for the employee on the factory floor.
College Graduates Hit the Factory
Manufacturing has suffered a great deal over the past 30 years. For the generation that hit the factory floor after WWII, their goal was to send their children to college so that they would not have to take a factory job at a plant. However, thanks to changes in manufacturing, especially in the developing world, there is a demand for factory workers that are tech-savvy and have college training to run the increasingly computerized and complicated machines that operate on a modern factory floor.
Modern companies both in Europe and America are looking for workers that have skills ranging from quality assurance to coding in Python and Linux. In fact, in many cases, there is now a labor shortage in manufacturing as companies create these jobs faster than they can fill them.
What can companies do to recruit more workers? A big problem is changing the image of manufacturing. While big tech has a reputation as one of the best places to work with flexible hours and benefits, many modern college graduates don’t look for these sorts of jobs when they are looking for employment after graduation. Also, graduates from non-technical majors get passed over by companies who are unwilling or unable to train their graduates to work in these new high-tech factories. Manufacturers will need to rehabilitate their image for young graduates to show that their skills are very much needed in these environments and that the factory of today is nothing like the factory of years gone by. Many graduates also view manufacturing as a dying field with few opportunities that will only be quickly outsourced. Modern factories will need to show graduates that these jobs are well-paying and stable in order to attract the talent that they need.
What About Those Without Skills?
One group of people being left behind by this modern manufacturing renaissance is those who stop their education after high school. In France, they are opening up apprenticeships to attract more workers to modern manufacturing. Here in America, most employers are not training employees and even college graduates can struggle to find jobs out of school, much less a job that pays well. For those without skills, these factory jobs are simply not going to be available to them. The days of manufacturing absorbing the uneducated worker and giving them a good wage are over. Apprenticeship programs, vocational training, and other educational opportunities for high school students will be crucial in helping those who aren’t planning on going to college to get these new jobs.
Faster, Efficient, Fewer
Although manufacturing in developed countries is more technical, faster, and efficient, ultimately it will employ fewer people than in the past. Manufacturing used to comprise a large part of the economy and employed a variety of people. That is simply no longer the case. However, for the technical graduate in the modern economy, the modern factory offers great pay and opportunities to use their skills in a clean, safe, and efficient environment.