nyeng hits the issue right on the head. well said.
The manufacturing engineer has it the worst of all classes of worker. They have the most responsibility for the least amount of situational control. When layoffs come, the company targets the higher paid, lower ranked people first. The last people to get laid off are the highly-paid managers who made ill-fated crucial decisions and who are supposed to be "responsible" for the success of the project or program.
Skilled people avoid manufacturing because experience shows that those jobs burn people up with little to show for it. If manufacturers want more skilled workers, they have a HUGE trust deficit to overcome after the last two decades.
Great points, tacosr. University engineering programs tend to be heavily invested in math and theory, which I'm sure aren't high priorities for the students in these two-year programs. That's the way it is, and I don't see it changing. Maybe it's time, though, for university programs to look at this kind of knowledge and understand that it makes for better engineers. Until they take that step, they'll be hesitant to accept much (if any) of it as a legitimate course credit.
I believe the deadliest of these three d's is dead end.
If, after taking these courses and taking a dark and dirty job for a few years, someone could continue on to a BS and further, then the path would not be a dead end. Isn't it true that the classic four year colleges would require a new start instead of granting an advanced standing for someone who has chosen the "Technology" degree instead of the prised "Engineering" degree?
Who needs to change? The schools or the students? Schools have no profit motive to change this situation.
Engineers have historically been reluctant to enter manufacturing, even though manufacturing experience is invaluable. The interesting thing about this story is that very few of these kids are engineers. Most stop their education after two years and jump into these relatively high-paying jobs. Only a small minority go on to get engineering degress, as I understand it.
I started my engineering career years ago in manufacturing but was elevated to a design function, which I greatly love. One of the reasons for moving into that position was having a basic understanding of how assemblies must be designed to be manufactured and assembled. DFM (design for manufacturing) was not really a program at that time but the company I worked for demanded "modular" assembly design to facilitate interchangeability in the field. Various "kits" were available to mix and match needs and prolong usability of the overall device. I value my time in manufacturing but can certainly understand some reluctance to recommend to a young engineering student to enter that specific area. With the advent of OSHA, the manufacturing floor is cleaner, less cluttered and definitely safer than during my "tour of duty". These changes have lessened objections in the engineering ranks.
I think you nailed it with your comment about trust, nyeng. Too many jobs were outsourced for too long, and it's understandable that some would reject manufacturing as a profession with that possibiliuty looming in the background. When they talk about changing the image of manufacturing, that issue of trust should be high on the list of points to address.
First of all, I'd like you to sign me up for one of those $58,000 jobs. I am a licensed professional engineer with a master's degree and I make less than that. In my pre-recession job I didn't make much more.
I don't think dirty and dark and dead end is a problem. If they money and benefits are there people will come. I worked in an auto assembly plant and met many people with bacheler and graduate degrees (there was allegedly a PhD but I never met him) who were pressing gaskets into a housing or driving screws instead of their chosen career. Why? Because you could make (with OT) $100,000 a year doing this dirty, dark, and unskilled job.
What I do see as a problem with manufacturing is trust. I think in some areas a manufacturing job is too dangerous. I.e. plant relocation and/or layoffs is considered a matter of when, not if. Virtually all of the reasonably sized (say 100 employees or more) manufacting firms present in my part of the state in the late 90s are drastically diminished or gone. Of the two largest, one is completely gone (4,000 jobs) and the other has a few hundred warehouse and development employees (down from a peak of around 8000 in the late eighties). Both of those companies moved the work to Mexico. Why would a kid in school want to go into manufacturing when their mom or dad or friends mom or dad lost their job (and maybe their car, home, etc.)?
Now there is also the issue of trust in the small firms. Some of these "high-tech" and politically touted manufacturing firms seem to be a flash in the pan or of an otherwise questionable nature. There have been a few of these around here. A firm sets up show to manufacture something "green" or "high-tech" or "sustainable" or whatever and they hire 50 or 100 people. Those hired like their jobs, the politicians get photos and kudos, and everybody is happy. And then two years later the property tax subsidy, industrial development grant, government purchase contract expires. Once that aforementioned item that made this politically (but no economically) wonderful businesss artifically viable is gone that business disappers and everybody loses their job. And the politicians got their publicity and the business owners or backers made a killing - but that's off topic and another story. The point is many people, at least in my locale, don't view manufacturing as a career because layoffs in manufacturing are the norm.
There is also the issue of supply and demand. The excess supply (at least in my area of the country) makes $58,000 somewhat laughable. There are young attorneys in this town that make $58,000 or less per year. I think if a young (or any age for that matter) CNC operator in this town made $35,000 they'd be doing good. No reason for a potential employer to offer $58,000 when they could offer 30% and still get dozens if not hundreds of applicants.
Well said, Bob from Maine. I do wonder sometimes why we always view this as an either-or situation, though. Couldn't schools send more four-year graduates into the world with manufacturing expertise, along with some knowledge of the liberal arts and humanities? Why is that considered worse than majoring in English or sociology and then being unable to find work?
You are lucky enough to live in an area - and work for an employer - where the pay is commensurate with your skills. I come from an area where the pay sucks, the hours suck, and the bosses think that they are there doing you a favor by hiring you. Now, I will say this, however. The more a company pays its employees to do a task, the better they are treated. Working in minimum wage factory jobs, I worked for people who felt that I should be grateful to them for stooping to hire me at minimum wage, but at Lunaire, where I ended up making $11.25 an hour after three years with the company, I was treated pretty well. I found that when the pay was better, the management seemed to appreciate the employees more - like it was the employees doing them a favor and working there.
Now, of course, I have two mortgages - the one on my house and the one on my brain (my college education cost me $120,000 or so, and my house cost me $135,400) - and I am looking for that sweet-spot in the IT field. Perhaps I will never find it, because here the thinking seems to be a constant "We can get ten people like you for less money if we outsource your job to India." Of course, that is not really true these days - it's more like one person and 9 people from the high school class he is teaching on programming or systems administration.
If you look back at the history of education in this country, 'high school' started out as a privilege. It was originally for those people who could not, for some reason, work on a farm with their parents - maybe the farm would go to the oldest son and the younger ones needed to make their own way in the world, maybe they lived 'in town' and there were no farms to work. It didn't matter, but high school was not designed for everyone. Then we made it for everyone, just as we had done with elementary school earlier on. Now we are doing the same with college. The only deifference is, we do not go to college for free. While I do feel bad about shop classes being cut from curricula, I took art in high school. I had friends in band in high school. Both art and music were the first to go from high school curricula. Oh, but you should have heard the parents in Harrisburg complain when the school district threatened to cut football! Funny, isn't it? We sit back and silently let them cut math, science, history, art, music, and every course which would guarantee all children some sort of future earnings, but God forbid they cut the football team! The whole country needs to sort out its priorities.
78RPM, I think you mean Peter Jackson's parents. He was a big fan of Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion photography techniques and it got him into film making. After a few really bad movies he made (Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles and Dead Alive come to mind) he managed to get a little bit of money, get the film rights to a little-known fantasy work known as "The Lord of the Rings" and shop it around until he found someone who was willing to see things his way - that you just can't cut the story down into a two-hour movie. His idea was, of course, that there should be two films, and when he finally found someone who said, "Hey, there are three books, shouldn't there be three movies?" he jumped with glee. Now, people all know who Peter Jackson is, but I am sure his parents wished he would have stopped playing with that camera and done his homework when he was younger.
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