Learn about good-paying jobs
Though manufacturing jobs across the country have become more technical, employers say the workforce hasn’t kept up, creating a skills gap where good-paying, in-demand jobs go unfilled.
To build awareness of this growing field and the job opportunities available, school districts, employers and community colleges across the state are participating in Manufacturing Day, which occurs on the first Friday in October. It is an annual celebration of modern manufacturing where manufacturers invite their communities to their facilities to educate them about career opportunities and improve public perceptions of manufacturing. More than 160 events are being held throughout Iowa this month.
“Educating Iowa’s youth and equipping them with the skills required for advanced manufacturing is more important than ever,” said Alexandra Monaghan, program coordinator for Elevate Iowa, a partnership between Iowa’s 15 Community Colleges and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry. Elevate Iowa was formed four years ago to promote careers and educational pathways in advanced manufacturing.
“There are still misconceptions about today’s manufacturing jobs,” Monaghan said. “The experiences that parents and grandparents had with low-skill assembly line jobs is outdated. Robotics, software and virtual reality are creating dramatic changes in how manufacturing contributes to our economy.”
Building Iowa’s talent pipeline for the careers of today and tomorrow, which includes jobs in advanced manufacturing, is key to the Future Ready Iowa initiative that calls for 70 percent of Iowans having education or training beyond high school by 2025.
“These are high-skill, good-paying jobs that are technical in nature, requiring training and education, but not necessarily a four-year degree,” Monaghan said. “For example, a welding program can take less than two years to complete. Students can start working faster without racking up burdensome student loan debt.”
“It is high technology,” said David Landon, manager of welding engineering at Vermeer Corporation. “All of our welding power sources are computer-based. Vermeer uses virtual reality to train, 3D printing to help build equipment, lasers to cut through steel - it is all state-of-the-art.”
Landon said the top issue facing manufacturing employers in Iowa and around the country is the need for a skilled workforce, and Vermeer is a prime example of that.
“We have immediate openings for several positions right now in welding and machining,” Landon said. “And these good jobs are stepping stones – there are opportunities for advancement. We have people who started their careers as team members in production and manufacturing and now are holding key leadership roles in the company.”
Iowa is projected to have a shortage of 6,672 skilled workers in the advanced manufacturing sector by next year. Monaghan says it is going to take continued partnering and building early awareness to keep that number from climbing.
“We need to overcome industry stereotypes that prevent many young people from viewing manufacturing as an attractive career option,” Monaghan said. “Careers in advanced manufacturing provide job security and upward mobility. The average salary of Iowa’s manufacturing workers is $54,420, well above the state’s overall average salary of $42,530.”
Landon says one of the strongest things Iowa has in its efforts to bolster the workforce is the cooperation and strong partnerships between high schools and community colleges.
“Community colleges are instrumental in training high school students by offering technical programs through career academies and regional centers,” he said. “They prepare students so they have the necessary skills for our open entry-level positons. If students choose to complete two-year degrees after those programs, then they are even better prepared for the advanced skills we need.”
As a former national president of the American Welding Society and a current board member of the International Institute of Welding, an organization made up of 52 member countries around the globe, Landon is an excellent example of where a degree in welding engineering can take you.
“I tell students that welding has literally taken me all over the world,” Landon said.
Manufacturing Day provides an opportunity for business and industry to connect with future generations and spark student interest in obtaining the relevant skills needed to thrive in this growing field.
“We encourage parents, students and educators to attend an event, go on a tour, and just to get an idea of all the opportunities,” Monaghan said. “We would like to see every manufacturer and school participate in Manufacturing Day.”
Find educator resources and student activities for inside and outside the classroom on the Elevate Iowa webpage.
Check out the Made in Iowa webpage to get familiar with products that are manufactured in Iowa.