Modern machining offers exciting career options

Modern machining offers exciting career options

Manufacturing Careers Presented to Career Counselors

“I have students who think they’re going to college, but their grades are below a 2.0 and I don’t think they’ll make it past their first year there. What should I say to them?”

Careers in ManufacturingOn March 4, 2016, the College of DuPage, in a joint effort with the Technology of DuPage, hosted their annual Countywide Counselor Institute Day for Middle School and High School Counselors. The TMA (Technology & Manufacturers Association) and Pioneer Service, Inc., based in Addison, presented “Careers in Manufacturing” to counselors in break-out sessions and heard comments and questions including:

• “Some students say they want to go into engineering, but they don’t even know what that means.”
• “Is there really in future for someone in manufacturing? I heard that only low-paying jobs are available.”
• “Why should I encourage students to go into this field when they have better earning potential other places?”

Greta Salamando, of the TMA Education Foundation and Rose of Sharon DeVos of Pioneer Service presented the case for careers in manufacturing, answering these and other questions. The TMA Education Foundation represents over 750 northern Illinois manufacturing companies, including Pioneer Service Inc., that have a need for the next generation of manufacturing employees. Manufacturers are fighting the myth of a low income, “dirty work” profession while students, who need good careers, are being steered into college educations that many cannot complete or afford. By sheer numbers, the event at the college mirrored this perception in that break-out sessions for “College and Career Readiness” were standing-room only, while the presentation for manufacturing careers drew fewer than ten participants to each session.

The school counselors who attended the “Careers in Manufacturing” session learned that today’s manufacturing careers are not your grandfather’s factory job. We’re not just looking for bodies to perform repetitive tasks, but we’re looking for people with a desire use current technology, contribute to the world and to advance themselves in the future. While STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education) has been widely promoted for the next generation of engineers and scientists, few students who excel in STEM have been exposed to manufacturing as a career of choice. Manufacturing engineers starting salaries can be as high as $60,000/year ( and go up from there. Thriving manufacturing companies have invested in clean, modern working environments and computer-controlled equipment. We are looking for leaders to use technology to grow our businesses and stay competitive and we are willing to invest in the next generation workforce. We offer apprenticeships, internships, earn-while-you-learn jobs, paid college educations and much more.

Shouldn’t more students be aware that there’s more than one way to a fulfilling career?

Manufacturers help people with a wide range of capabilities have fulfilling careers. We hire people with broad range of skills, abilities and interests. For example, Greta shared a story about one machinist who said that he hated high school, writing papers, etc. and was pretty much failing. He signed up for a class at TCD and found that metal working was his thing. After winning awards in TMA’s high school machining competition, a company quickly picked him up. His employer starts high school graduates at $12/hour and within 2 years they have 6 reviews with the potential to make $22/hour, all while paying for them to take 2 classes a semester at the community college of their choice. They get a bonus for and “A” or a “B” in those classes. Motivation is no longer a problem for this machinist!

Which students should consider a career in manufacturing?

Manufacturing is a great career choice for those with and without the college diploma. It can offer alternative career pathways to students who don’t want college debt, but want a long-term fulfilling career. It also is a great choice for new college graduates looking for practical ways to advance their careers and make a difference. 

[layerslider id=”10″]

Matching Student’s Interests

Student Reason
Tech savvy students who are considering an IT field. There are numerous opportunities in CNC programming and quality control that may be a great fit.
Those who like building things, such as making Lego creations or love to take things apart and “fix” things. This student may also like making and/or designing real products. Manufacturing is hands-on.
Students who are doing well in math, computer design and science classes (STEM), and/or want to become engineers. Product design, quality, lean-manufacturing projects and CNC programming are examples of jobs for the engineer-minded student. With good company mentorship, these areas can become high-paying jobs very quickly. Doing a summer internship, while attending college is a great way to walk into their first real job right after graduation.
The student who is bored with core classes and doesn’t see why he needs to be able to write a paper and solve an algebra problem, but likes practical classes such as wood-working, automotive and even home economics. Perhaps this student needs to see how writing and math skills correlate to the “real world” and things click for them when solving real-world issues, not theoretical problems.


Students who have an aptitude to go to college, but don’t want the debt. They’re looking for an alternative and willing to delay their college education.


Maybe they can get an internship with a company that will help pay for their college education, helping them to get there debt-free.


Students who are unsure if they want to college or not, but still want a career with a future. They may be able to get a part-time job in manufacturing to determine if they like it while take a few classes at a community college.
Students who don’t know what they want to do, don’t have any idea what they want to study in college, but plan for college anyhow because “that’s what you do after high-school to make money.” This is an expensive way to figure out what you want to do, and there is not guaranteed outcome. They could try this for a year, take advantage of company-paid incentives for training, and at the end of the year either continue in manufacturing or go to college (with some experience and money under their belt.)


School counselors who attended the break-out sessions all said they had kids in mind who could benefit from the programs and connections available in the industry so, if you know a young person who should consider a career in manufacturing, but you’re not sure of the best way to introduce them to the possibilities, feel free to reach out to Greta Salamano at the TMA for Northern Illinois opportunities or manufacturing associations in your area. You may also contact Rose of Sharon DeVos at Pioneer Service Inc. to organize a student field trip, discuss women in manufacturing or apply for jobs at the Addison, IL facility. This article was also posted in the April 15, 2016 Edition of the College of DuPage Events Green Sheet.

Resources for Students Considering Manufacturing as a Career:

Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathways Video (5 min.)

How it’s Made: Series of Videos Showing Manufacturing Examples

Edge Factor: Metal & Flesh – Cool Video for High School (6 min.)

A Shortage of Skilled Workers Threatens Manufacturing’s Rebound