Factory work, which has never been easy, continues to get more difficult, but in a different way. As jobs have moved from manual labor to automation, workers need to have higher levels of proficiency in dealing with computers and robotics.
This situation has not gone unnoticed. According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, currently, more than 40% of manufacturing workers have a college degree.
While that figure isn’t all that surprising, what is interesting is if this trend continues within the next few the number of factory workers with college degrees will outnumber those with high school degrees.
The WSJ report noted that in 1991, only 22% of factory workers had college degrees.
The industry has been jumping in to help current and future employees secure access to these degrees through a variety of programs. Some companies recruit high school students through internship programs, then hire them on and pay for training which can include a four-year degree. Some companies even pay the full cost of tuition.
There are also stepping stones out there that can help high school students get post-secondary training through associate degrees and industry certification.
But it seems that the end game is that college degree.
In a forceful statement, Eric Spiegel, who was the former CEO of Siemens, U.S.A. told the NYT in 2017 that at his company’s factories there is a computer every 20 or 30 feet. “People on the plant floor need to be much more skilled than they were in the past. There are no jobs for high school graduates at Siemens today.”