Where the Manufacturing Jobs of the Future Will Be (WSJ)

Many high-skill factory jobs let young people earn a good living without big college debt

 News By : Margaret Nixon



In a tough economy, factory work has begun to look surprisingly attractive.

Though job growth is slow in U.S. manufacturing (1.5% over the past 12 months) and unlikely to speed up much in an era of increasing automation, the Labor Department estimates 320,000 positions were open in March.

Many of the positions available require skills that command pay far above service jobs in such areas as retailing and food service. Those skills include programming and operating computer-controlled tools; maintaining and repairing sophisticated machinery, which requires a deep understanding of both mechanics and electronics; and doing specialized types of welding.

Another big growth area is in process-control skills needed for such industries as food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. New petrochemical plants in Texas and Louisiana will spur demand for those skills.

Many higher-skill factory jobs require only a year or two of vocational training. That allows young people to start earning money sooner and avoid running up big college debts. In some cases, they can go back for more education later, after building up nest eggs and awareness of their best career opportunities.

One sign of strong demand for factory skills: The unemployment rate for manufacturing in the U.S. was 4% in April, compared with 5.1% for the economy as a whole.

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