Is There a Career Pathway in Manufacturing?

June 6, 2023
Written by: Micki Vandeloo

The term “career pathway” has been thrown around a lot lately.  But, what is a career pathway?  My very unofficial definition is, “The progression from education to a career in manufacturing”.

Now that we have defined it, what does a career pathway in manufacturing look like? It can look a number of different ways.  For example:

  • High school industrial arts program to a community college degree or certificate to an introductory job in manufacturing to additional skills training that helps you advance in your manufacturing career, or
  • High school graduation to entry level job in manufacturing, or
  • After school STEM program to apprenticeship with a manufacturer which will create an upward trajectory for your manufacturing career, or
  • HS education to an existing career that you are dissatisfied with directly to a manufacturing career OR to a college degree or certificate for a manufacturing career OR to an apprenticeship program at a manufacturer, again creating that upward trajectory.

So, there are various pathways an individual can take to enter a manufacturing career depending on the starting point, the funds to get an education, the time you want to take to establish a promising career and the work ethic of the individual. Let’s examine these three factors more closely:

  • Starting Point – Are you a high school student interested in a manufacturing career or an existing workforce member dissatisfied with your current job? As shown by the example above, these can have very different career pathways.  High school students currently aren’t exposed to industrial arts training through high school, so some sort of degree or certificate may be required to gain specific manufacturing skills, or they can gain those skills and learn on the job through apprenticeship programs.  Those seeking manufacturing as a “next career” may have some skills that can translate to manufacturing and may be able to enter a manufacturing job without additional training.
  • Funds for Education – The type of career pathway into a manufacturing career may very well be impacted by the availability of funds to pay for a college degree or certificate. In this case, it is better to enter an apprenticeship program, as typically manufacturers pay for the majority of the education.
  • Time Desired to Establish a Promising Manufacturing Career – If you want to get a job right out of high school at a manufacturing facility, you will likely start at an entry level position that is lower pay than if you take the time to get a college degree or certificate. Many community colleges, however, offer short term certificate options and flexible class schedules that allow current manufacturing employees to gain the skills needed fairly quickly and to work while obtaining those skills.  Apprenticeship require a wage progression, but you will likely start off at the starting wage, and typically they take 2-3 years to reach that higher wage and job position.
  • Work Ethic – No matter what career pathway you choose, you WILL have to work hard to have an upward career trajectory in manufacturing. You may have to take classes at night, or work off shifts to obtain needed skills to progress in your career.  However, if you work hard at work and commit to obtaining the skills needed for promotions, manufacturing can be a very promising career for you!

So, is there a career pathway in manufacturing?  Yes, there are several.  You have to decide which one is right for you by considering your starting point, the money you have available to fund your education, the time you wish to take to start advancing, and, most importantly, your work ethic!

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