The truth about manufacturing: Dispelling the myths

As we gear up to celebrate Manufacturing Day on October 5, let’s review some common manufacturing myths. Manufacturing is not the dark, dirty, backbreaking and obsolete type of work it used to be. Due to new processes and technologies, it’s a cleaner, modern and innovative field with highly competent and versatile employees using advanced technologies. It’s a safe place where continuous improvement thrives and caring for the environment is a top priority.

1.     MYTH: Manufacturing jobs are limited and low skilled.

REALITY: Manufacturing is the core of our company. Our customers are literally building the world and couldn’t do it without our engines and equipment. Every job has repetitive aspects but as an individual employee, you have a unique view of the current processes and procedures established across the enterprise. Likewise, manufacturing employees are tasked with thinking outside the box on how to improve not only processes and procedures but also the design behind our machines.

A report released from the Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, citing 84 percent of manufacturing executives, said there is a significant talent shortage in the sector. Between now and 2022, the manufacturing sector will need to fill 2.2 million openings for production workers. Half a million of those openings will be for engineers, and an untold number of job openings will be for new, emerging occupations.

2.     MYTH: Manufacturing is male dominated.

REALITY: Manufacturing is male dominated. Women hold 27 percent of current manufacturing jobs, according to a congressional report—only 17 percent hold board seats, 12 percent are executive officers, and six percent are CEOs. However, this is not because employers are not willing to hire women in those roles.

In August 2014, Women in Manufacturing (WiM) surveyed 877 women to uncover the divide between young women choosing a career and women with experience working in the manufacturing industry. Less than 10 percent of women in the 17-to-24 age range selected manufacturing among their top five career fields—less than half thought the work would be interesting or challenging.

Among women already in the manufacturing sector, 82 percent said they found their field offered interesting and challenging work and 74 percent of women felt it did in fact offer multiple career opportunities.

To combat this issue, Caterpillar launched Women in Leadership, to address the gender balance at Caterpillar. Caterpillar was ranked #7 on Woman Engineer Magazine’s “Top 50 Employers” in 2016 and on Forbes Best Employers for Women in 2018.

3.     MYTH: Manufacturing jobs are low paying.

REALITY: According to a congressional report by the Joint Economic Committee in 2013 (the most recent data), hourly compensation is 17 percent higher in manufacturing than in other industries.

And, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), as of 2013, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $77,506 annually, including pay and benefits.

The congressional report also stated "manufacturing jobs are more likely to come with benefits, including medical and retirement benefits, than service-sector jobs. They also are more likely to require on-the-job training than jobs in other segments of the economy."

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