The number of Americans employed in manufacturing has declined by 35% over the past 40 years.
But, it still remains a vital source of jobs in the Twin Cities area.
As part of National Manufacturing Month, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a tour of several local businesses.
Organized in collaboration with the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, its economic development arm, the October 19 event was an opportunity to learn about the impact of manufacturing on the regional economy.
It included stops at Solvus Global in Leominster, Burkhart Flutes and Piccolos in Shirley, as well as Jabil Healthcare and Mount Wachusett Community College Manufacturing Center in Devens.
NCMCC President and CEO Roy Nascimento reaffirmed in a subsequent press release the organization’s commitment to local manufacturing, noting a “need for more young workers” and that a “gap of skills” exists in the workforce.
“Manufacturers are among the highest paid, best educated and most in demand workers in the workforce, but despite competitive wages and training, they still struggle to recruit the workers they need,” said Nascimento.
“Manufacturing continues to be a priority industry in North Central Massachusetts,” said Jeffrey Roberge, executive director of MassHire North Central Workforce Board. “Many thanks to the North-Central Chamber for hosting this important event as it brings together our legislators, educators and employers to learn more about this vital sector.”
The tour also included a presentation by University of Massachusetts Amherst Donahue Institute Project Director Branner Stewart, who highlighted findings from a recent NCMCC-commissioned workforce study. . The north-central region has the largest concentration of manufacturing industries in the state, with one-third of all private wages in the region coming from manufacturing jobs.
Although some manufacturing workers are paid well, that doesn’t seem to be the norm in Massachusetts or any other state. A lack of specialized skills and interest would seem to be the reason employers have difficulty attracting workers.
According to ZipRecruiter, a leading online job site, as of October, the average annual salary for the industrial manufacturing job category in Massachusetts was $33,754 per year. That equates to about $16.23 per hour, or $649 per week. That hourly wage is barely above the state’s minimum standard of $15 that goes into effect in January.
Top earners in this category earn around $48,000 a year.
It’s not a lot of money. It wasn’t before this continuing inflationary price spiral let alone now.
ZipRecruiter noted that the industrial manufacturing salary range differs a lot – up to $9,666 – suggesting that there are opportunities for advancement and pay increase depending on skill level, location and years of experience.
So even in this low-wage industry, certain attributes make the difference.
NCMCC’s manufacturing tour has stopped at companies where advanced education pays dividends; it also showed the pay gap that exists between different manufacturing jobs.
According to its website, at Solvus Global in Leominster, a variety of engineers – software, R&D, mechanical – earn between $87,000 and $97,000 a year. Even entry-level positions command a salary of $42,000.
Glassdoor estimates that at Burkhart Flutes and Piccolos in Shirley, finishers and performance testers earn an annual salary of $57,000, while PayScale.com reports employees at Devens-based Jabil Healthcare earn an average of $82,000. .
It’s no coincidence that ZipRecruiter discovered that the highest paying manufacturing jobs require an engineering background. Industrial engineering manager and digital manufacturing engineer positions pay between $73,269 and $84,047 per year, more than double the state manufacturing average.
Beyond entry into the labor market, manufacturing does not appear to be a pathway to economic independence for workers without specialized skills or advanced degrees.
That’s why it’s necessary for the state — through its technical high schools and community colleges — to provide the resources to equip the workforce for the lucrative manufacturing positions that exist.