College and career—and how manufacturing fits in: Part 2

What Makes Success? Continued . . .

Can manufacturing offer a realistic alternative to career paths that start with university? In Part 1, we looked at what we expect out of a career and examined one common point of concern regarding careers in manufacturing. There we saw that the stereotype many people have long had in mind of manufacturing as "hot/sweaty/dirty" work isn’t necessarily accurate today. Now we turn to the second objection.



Reasonable Pay

How well can you support yourself if you choose a career in manufacturing? In this piece for South Carolina Manufacturing, Paul Kumler discusses the opportunities for high-paying jobs in the industry. Truth be told, manufacturing jobs can offer better starting pay than many university graduates find in their careers. And the long-term pay, while not extravagant, is competitive. The National Association of Manufacturers indicates that in 2019, the average annual pay for manufacturing work was $88,406.00, compared to an average of $71,390.00 overall (for all nonfarm industries).

While this issue is complicated by the availability of lower-cost labor outside the US, there’s hope for building US-based manufacturing through specialized work, technological efficiency, and increased awareness of opportunities—if more people are open to a career in manufacturing, and employers can hire them, companies stand the chance of increasing their volumes in order to reduce their overhead burden. But all of this connects to students’ willingness to consider a variety of options in their life plans.


COVID-19 Impact and Recovery: Helpful Statistics

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected opportunities in the manufacturing industry? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while manufacturing employment levels haven’t recovered from the onset of COVID-19 (index levels* in mid-2020 are the lowest of the decade that spans 2011-2021), they are increasing.

Manufacturing Employment Index 2011-2021

On top of that, hourly compensation* has gone up after a slight drop mid-2020, increasing beyond pre-COVID pay levels.


Manufacturing Hourly Compensation Index 2011-2021

Real hourly compensation*, hasn’t been increasing at the same levels as overall hourly compensation (many people’s living expenses have increased, as even though inflation is low, strains on the supply chain have driven up the cost of many necessities), but it’s still going up from where it dropped early in the pandemic.


Manufacturing Real Hourly Compensation Index 2011-2021

These data suggest that even in light of COVID-19, manufacturing opportunities are growing. As students and their families consider the cost-benefit of college or university education, and students weigh whether they feel personally inclined toward that path, manufacturing can offer a viable alternative that allows those who are interested in the field to start a career with the chance to grow and the ability to support themselves well.


*Note: Numbers along the y-axis of these charts are indices provided by the BLS for clear comparison, not actual amounts. Charts and data accessed June 24, 2021. Base year for all charts is 2012.



Thinking about a career in manufacturing?

If you’re a student considering your options, we hope we’ve piqued your interest in a manufacturing career. If you’d like to explore further, try any of these next steps:

We at KTM Solutions wish you all the best as you decide what career works best for you.