Certified Production Technician (CPT) is the First Step     

According to the Manufacturing Institute, the educational arm of the National Association of Manufacturers, skilled workforce is one of the most critical factors affecting not only production, but also innovation, research and development in advanced manufacturing.

If someone told you there was an industry where the national average annual salary is $76,000, what industry would come to mind? What if this career included healthcare for 90 percent of its workforce and retirement benefits for 78 percent? What if you knew this industry paid at least 41 percent more than 13 of the 21 major industry sectors?

If you didn’t think manufacturing, it’s time to take a closer look and see this industry in a whole new light. 

Manufacturing is at the core of what it takes to keep this country, and the world, running. It’s an industry that supports an estimated 17.6 million jobs in the United States and about one in six private-sector jobs. In Florida, there are more than 12,000 manufacturing companies that account for a nearly $40 billion output of goods and services. 

The biggest selling point for any job seeker – manufacturers estimate 10 million workers in the U.S. will need to be replaced over the next 15 years. 

Reality Versus Perception

With a solid pay structure, good benefits, a large share of the workforce, and a plethora of job opportunities, why isn’t everyone flocking to manufacturing? There isn’t one simple answer. 

As technology progressed, so too did manufacturing operations. The industry has had to transition at the speed of technology. But the visions of dark, dirty, unsophisticated assembly lines are hard to forget thanks to popular culture over the years. These negative connotations have carried on through generations and are now manifesting in the form of college bound students and their career path selections. 

But today, factory conditions of the past couldn’t be farther from reality. As advanced manufacturing has given way to automation and high tech pursuits, many modern plants look more like laboratories than manufacturing plants. The industry has become a world of multimillion-dollar machines and new technology evolving and developing all the time. A new generation of workers is needed now to operate, maintain, and troubleshoot on this next generation shop floor. 

Root of the Problem

It’s not just students who view a career in manufacturing as “boring” and “dangerous”; parents are overwhelmingly leaving manufacturing out of career discussions. Parents still encourage their children to go to college and get a white-collar job, which overwhelmingly continues to be seen as the key to the American Dream. 

The reality is that opting for certified skills training can lead to a career within an industry providing attainable steps along a clear path for growth. 

Teachers and guidance counselors do not fully understand the opportunities and as a result, manufacturing is taking a back seat to the four-year college degree. 

Simply put, the manufacturing industry has an image problem. 

Certified Production Technician (CPT) is the First Step

How to “sell” manufacturing to entry-level candidates, career changers, veterans, and others has become a priority in recent years. It’s the basis for many national outreach campaigns, and here on the Space Coast, it’s being addressed under the EDC’s Certified Production Technician (CPT) pilot program. This program starts at a regional level to help change the perception of a career in manufacturing and provide access to training tools for those looking to transition or start in this field.

This program has the power to transform because it’s addressing a critical need for the local economy. Nearly 60 percent of Brevard’s manufacturing workforce is expected to retire in the next 15 years. Only 4 percent of workers between 16-24 years old are in line to replace them. 

These issues are especially apparent and important to Brevard, which has the highest concentration of overall manufacturing jobs in the state.  

Now is the time to concentrate on the realities of manufacturing. Now is the time to engage the next generation.

This article appears in the October 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Business.
Did you like what you read here? 
Subscribe to SpaceCoast Business


Head-LyndaWeathermanAbout the Author

Lynda Weatherman is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s
Space Coast.