“Manufacturing is flooding back to the United States,” says Joanna Dowling, chair of the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT). In the past, many American industries outsourced manufacturing labor to facilities in other countries; primarily China. But due to rising overseas manpower and energy costs, and companies’ desire to produce goods close to their customers, the trend is reversing.
Industries small and large in the U.S. are “reshoring” the manufacturing of a wide range of products—from automobiles and tractors to appliances—from countries like China. “The result is a surge in the number of jobs for skilled labor and a tremendous call for technicians,” says Dowling.
Even better news for those in the field is that reshoring isn’t the only reason that the number of industry jobs is projected to grow. Right now, the field has an aging workforce. For example, the average age of machinist in Massachusetts is 55. This means there will be a rash of retirements in the near future, opening up positions for job-seekers at many levels.
Still, the job market is competitive for those who don’t have the right skill-set, which includes the basics: tooling, metal cutting, milling and turning. “Traditional methods of learning are—and will always be—greatly important,” says Roy Garber, instructor at BFIT. “So we make sure our students fully understand how to make something properly and how to make things manually. If someone has training and knows what we call ‘employability skills,’ they have a big advantage over someone with just experience.”
“Automation technology is the wave of the future in manufacturing. It’s becoming the lifeblood of the industry because companies need to stay competitive and to be able to use equipment to be more cost effective.” — Joanna Dowling
Another big advantage, according to Garber, is having the desire to design and build products for the changing technical environment. For example, additive manufacturing—the industrial form of 3D printing —is taking off, along with other advanced manufacturing tools to make parts and products.
Automation technology is another trend shaping the industry. Combining the fields of electronics, electrical and mechanics, automation technology is related to the design and maintenance of automated equipment and machines, including robots. “Automation technology is the wave of the future in manufacturing,” says Dowling. “It’s becoming the lifeblood of the industry because companies need to stay competitive and to be able to use equipment to be more cost effective.”
These advances in the field open doors to a world of possibilities in terms of what skilled professionals can help create. “Mechanical engineering technicians are basically inventors,” says Garber. “They’re people who want to create tomorrow’s innovations.”