Career Opportunities In Manufacturing

In this post, Rhonda Lamb, Safety & Personnel Coordinator for SouthernField, shares her advice for students attending technical colleges as they consider careers in industrial manufacturing. 

There are many opportunities in manufacturing, and they provide a lucrative and rewarding career path. When you choose a trade, you are getting more than a job. You are setting yourself up for long-term career options. Many employees start in what we would consider a “working hand” role. These positions don’t have as many skill requirements to get a foot in the door, and you learn on the job as you help the team. Over the years, several of these people have worked their way through the company and earned CWI certifications or went to be project managers or superintendents. There’s a lot of room for growth in this industry and within manufacturing companies. 

Doing Your Due Diligence

Students attending technical college should do their due diligence and research the career path they’re considering. There’s a lot of room for advancement in the millwrightwelding, and safety skill sets. It’s a matter of just applying yourself. 

Choosing a technical school provides a great start to a career. The certifications and understanding you gain will carry your career further, and you will be eligible to advance sooner than you would have been going straight into the workforce.

There is some misinformation out there. You may hear that welders make a specific hourly rate right out of school. Hourly rates depend on the job and experience of the welder, therefore hourly rates vary. Talk to people in the trade you are considering so that you can get firsthand information on the quality of life, job opportunities, and earning potential. 

Entry-Level Earning Potential

Entry-level positions for field technicians working on outage projects pay around $40,000 per year, but there are opportunities to make money in addition to your base salary. Entry-level employees who are consistent and take advantage of travel and overtime can easily exceed a total income of $60,000. 

Because of the nature of our work, much of what we do is considered seasonal work. We have the spring outage season, which runs from approximately March 1 to May 31, and the fall outage season from approximately September 1 to November 30. So many positions work very long hours, but they only do it for about half the year. 

There can be supplementary work in other months. December, January, June, and July can be slow, although June and July have been busier since many of our customers got off their 12- or 18-month maintenance schedules when the pandemic hit. Field technicians could easily make a good living working just six months out of a year and then take advantage of opportunities for more work during those offseason times to supplement their income. It’s really a matter of how much someone wants to work or how much they want to make. 

Career Advancement Opportunities

Once you’re well into your career, there are opportunities to become a superintendent, project manager, or a CWI (Certified Welding Inspector). Your earning potential starts off really good and increases with experience.

Many of these full-time positions are “guaranteed salary.” For some positions we pay 40 hours a week at the base rate even if you’re not on a job site. You’ll likely be on job sites a lot during outage season, so the earning potential grows. 

It doesn’t take a long time for the right person with the right motivation to advance into a general foreman position.  

Travel Opportunities

Because our project work during outage season serves clients across the country, most of these jobs include a lot of travel. There are career options that don’t contain much travel, so it depends on the lifestyle an individual wants. Life on the road is financially beneficial, but it’s essential to know and understand that sacrifices will have to be made. You give up a lot of personal time and holidays. If you love to travel, this may be the path you are looking for. 

I tell people considering a travel-based career that it’s well worth it from a financial and travel standpoint, but there is a trade-off, and it involves making sacrifices from a personal perspective.

Planning for the Workforce

It’s beneficial to connect with potential employers about six months before you finish school. In our industry, this gives us time to see how your graduation lines up with our project load and provides a spot on our schedule shortly after you finish school. 

We require every employee to have an OSHA 10 certification, preferably for the construction industry, before going on a job site. Manufacturing employees at our facility in Pelham also need an OSHA General Industry certification card. 
If you’re nearing your graduation date and are looking to start your career, view all our job openings here! For general questions regarding our products, services, or career opportunities, reach out to us here.