Manufacturing Jobs 2.0

Careers in manufacturing are a thing of the past, right?  

You’re not alone if you believe that the era of a robust U.S. manufacturing economy – and careers in the sector – are all but dead.  And why wouldn’t one think that were the case? 

News about the great recession, government bailouts of auto manufacturing giants General Motors and Chrysler, and on a more local level, devastating layoffs at large manufacturing firms such as Hutchinson Technology, paint a bleak picture.

But hold on just a minute: despite news stories that would make you think otherwise, the manufacturing industry in the U.S. is strong and growing. 

A recent article by Peter Zelinski, senior editor for Modern Machine Shop, sites statistics published by Financial Times indicating that unfilled manufacturing job openings have more than doubled since the beginning of 2009, rising from 98,000 to 230,000.  Further illustrating this growth, Joseph Bonney’ story for the Journal of Commerce Online references  the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly purchasing managers’ index, which has indicated growth in manufacturing activity for 23 consecutive months.

So what gives? National unemployment figures remain high, yet statistics indicate that hundreds of thousands of manufacturing job openings sit unfilled. 

Jobs in manufacturing most certainly have not gone by the wayside, however careers in the field do look quite different today than they did even a decade ago.  Growth in the industry has been spurred by increased productivity and the manufacturing of high-tech products, both made possible by technological advancements on the shop floor. So, what many Baby-boomers and Gen X’ers envision as a manufacturing job may indeed be history.  

In fact, it is the advancement of manufacturing technology that is causing the shortage of workers.  These unfilled manufacturing jobs require workers with advanced skills in modern manufacturing, such as knowledge of how to operate computer numerical controlled (CNC) lathes, mills, and brakes, or how to program logic controllers (PLC’s) that automate manufacturing processes and tasks completed by robots. To quote Zelinski in his article, “…the skills among jobseekers fall short of the skills that are truly in demand.”

Therein lies a tremendous opportunity. Ridgewater College and other community and technical colleges in Minnesota train students in machine tool technology, automation and robotics, and other modern manufacturing skills.  Our labs contain some of the most up-to-date technology found in industry, and the curriculum is kept up to date with current procedures. 

Many people still think of “machine tool” programs as teaching students the same tired manufacturing skills of twenty years ago, which is simply false.  Zelinski mentions that “…only one group truly [knows] what job skills are in demand…That group is employers themselves.”

We at Ridgewater agree, and that is why our instructors meet annually with an advisory committee made up of industry professionals.  The feedback from this group is used to modify equipment and technology, ensuring that our students are well-trained and ready for the workforce.

And the employers recognize the skills Ridgewater graduates have.  The campus career services office has compiled dozens of positions aimed at our Machine Tool and Automation and Robotics grads, just since the beginning of 2011.  So those job openings we discussed earlier, many of them are available locally. 

And these aren’t minimum wage jobs.  Many of the CNC Operator jobs I reviewed had starting wages in the $20 per hour range.  That’s a good start for someone with two years or less of post-secondary education!

What’s your perception of a machine tool or automation program?  What’s your definition of a manufacturing facility?  You may want to think twice, and consider the opportunities that lie ahead in this dynamic field.

Photography Students’ Talent Displayed in Print Competition

 

Every year, students in Ridgewater’s Professional Photography program put their best work up against classmates in a print competition.  The student works are judged and critiqued by well-respected professional photographers from across the region.  As you will see by the attached images, the judges’ decisions can’t be easy!  These works illustrate the amazing talents of both our students and their instructors.

Pure Innocence by Amy Bast

Pure Innocence by Amy Bast

 

Day of the Dead by Theresa Nabor

"Day of the Dead" by Theresa Nabor

Dark Temptation by Sarah Howley

Dark Temptation by Sarah Howley

Last Call by Jared Lundstrom

Last Call by Jared Lundstrom

Vintage Glow by Courtney Satrom

Vintage Glow by Courtney Satrom

Jar of Hearts by Callie Johnson

Jar of Hearts by Callie Johnson

Little Squirt by Rachel Vait

Little Squirt by Rachel Vait

Super Tough by Pauline Krebs

Super Tough by Pauline Krebs

Pretty as a Peacock by Laurie Middendorf

Pretty as a Peacock by Laurie Middendorf

Tea Time in Wonderland by Katie Weiby

Tea Time in Wonderland by Katie Weiby

Taste the Flavor Enjoy the Moment by Bambi Bratsch

Taste the Flavor Enjoy the Moment by Bambi Bratsch

  

The judges for this year’s competition include: Dennis Nelson, Dave Johnson, David Grupa, Kirsten Holscher, Marti Carlson-Twite, Jenny Klassen, and Krish Kiefer.

Early Childhood Education Students Recognized by United Way

Students from Ridgewater’s Early Childhood Education program received the Top Volunteer Award last week by the United Way of West Central Minnesota.  The award, which was presented at the United Way’s Thank You Event on Friday, May 20, is in recognition of the work of Early Childhood Education students in developing curricula and activities for the Literacy Totes – part of the United Way’s Growmobile.

The Growmobile is a mobile unit that traels to family child care centers to assist the providers in preparing all children to be ready for kindergarden.

Ridgewater’s Early Childhood Education program gives students the first two years of a four year degree in Early Childhood Education from Southwest Minnesota State University.  Students who complete the AS Degree at Ridgewater have the option to seamlessly transfer into the SMSU program to complte a bachelor’s degree either on campus or online.

Ridgewater Students Take Home Honors at National BPA Conference

Eight Ridgewater students competed at the May 5-8, 2011, National Leadership Conference of Business Professionals of America in Washington D.C. Competitions focus on knowledge and practical application of skills needed in business careers.

 Participants receiving awards in the national competition include:

Brianna Johnson (Willmar) 2nd place, Fundamental Accounting

3rd place, Fundamental Spreadsheet Applications

Finalist, Integrated Office Applications 

Amber Lee (Litchfield) 2nd place, Medical Transcription

2nd place, Medical Office Procedures 

Stephanie Vogel (Willmar) 1st place, Advanced Word Processing Skills 
Makensie Paulsen (Hutchinson) 5th place, Medical Office Procedures 
Michael Nistler (St. Cloud) 5th place, Extemporaneous Speech 
Megan Siegfried (Atwater) Finalist, Advanced Office Systems & Procedures 
Heather Ruplinger (Olivia) 4th place, Desktop Publishing
   

 Additionally, the Administrative Support Team, consisting of Brittney Spanier (Paynesville), Stephanie Vogel, Megan Siegfried, and Heather Ruplinger placed 3rd in the nation! 

Approximately 5,500 students and advisors from throughout the United States participated in Business Professionals of America’s 45th National Leadership Conference. Activities included general sessions with keynote speakers, business meetings, leadership workshops, contests, election of national officers, and tours of Washington, D.C., sights and attractions! The highlight of the conference was the presentation of the awards to the winners of the national contests. Our opening general session took place May 4 on the lawn of the Washington Monument.

In addition to student awards, Ridgewater BPA Advisor Beth Gravley received recognition for her 15 years as BPA advisor.  Lois Flaig, another accomplished Ridgewater instructor was named in the opening ceremony as one of only two to receive the Outstanding Service Award. 

Business Professionals of America is the leading CTSO (Career Technical Student Organization) for students pursuing careers in business management, office administration, information technology and other related career fields. Visit us at http://www.bpa.org.

Ridgewater Students Excel at International DECA Conference

Students from the Marketing and Sales Management program at Ridgewater College took home awards from The International DECA Career Development Conference, held Apr. 12 – April 16th in Orlando, Florida.  Six students from Ridgewater College competed in four different competitive events. There were over 1400 DECA members competing in various events. 

Students bringing home awards include: 

Cassandra Rix (Willmar) – First Place in the “Marketing Management” event.   

Justin Rademacher (Hutchinson), Myranda Hansen (Glencoe) & Megan Arndt (Hutchinson) – top 10 national finalists in the “Advertising Campaign” team event 

DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. DECA enhances the preparation for college and careers by providing co-curricular programs that integrate into classroom instruction, applying learning in the context of business, connecting to business and the community and promoting competition. Student members leverage their DECA experience to become academically prepared, community oriented, professionally responsible, experienced leaders.

The Marketing and Sales Management program at Ridgewater College prepares students for mid-management or management careers in merchandising, retailing, retail sales, sales representation, advertising, wholesaling, customer service occupations and small business management. Marketing students have experiences directly related to the competitive business world. They learn about the global economy and discuss future trends affecting all aspects of business and industry. Students get a realistic view of buying, selling and management issues through classroom discussion, hands-on learning, and workplace internships.