Blue-collar work goes business caj as factory work requires college degrees

Since many factories now require them, factory workers with college degrees are projected to outnumber workers without them in 3 years.


December 11, 2019

US manufacturers have added more than 1m post-recession jobs, but most have not gone to guys in grease-splattered coveralls. 

As the WSJ reports, the manufacturing industry is projected to have more college-educated workers than not within the next 3 years. Those without degrees aren’t faring as well.

It’s all about automation

What used to be manual labor has been reassigned to machines. Machines can boost output while handling the physically strenuous, sometimes dangerous aspects of factory work.

But running the machines requires complex problem-solving skills and technical expertise. Today, more than 40% of factory workers have completed at least an associate degree — up from 22% in 1991 — and demand for jobs like industrial engineers, which require advanced degrees, has increased by 10% between 2012 and 2018. 

A case study:

In Illinois, Pioneer Service Inc. makes components for Tesla and aerospace companies. When overseas competition posed problems for Pioneer, the owner invested over $6m in new technology. 

Now, a widget that once took 45 minutes to produce requires only 6 minutes.

With this boost in production has come a boost in pay. In 2010, workers earned $8.25/hour. Currently, workers earn between $14/hour and $27/hour. That high pay is necessary to attract highly skilled employees. 

But that puts others at a disadvantage. Many employees lacking postsecondary education eventually were edged out. Today, only 10 of the 40 workers employed before the new technology was implemented at Pioneer remain.

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