Recently I have been asked many questions about what I do and about careers in Advanced Manufacturing. It seems as if manufacturing has disappeared as a career possibility for a period and is now being reborn. However, manufacturing never went away. Instead, it has become more advanced with an added necessity to fill the pipeline with bright talented employees, entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators. I see no possible way advanced manufacturing will disappear in the future because manufacturing creates our civilization as we know it. Although there have been trends in manufacturing that have cast dark shadows on it as a career socially, others have embraced those challenges to create new careers and dreams of a better future possible.
Deciding on a career in advanced manufacturing can be overwhelming. The career possibilities are truly endless as manufacturing continues to advance. However, a career in advanced manufacturing can start simply as an entry level position in a small company. I started my career in advanced manufacturing in a small shop deburring parts on a chucker lathe. The work was tedious and dirty, but it wasn’t the deburring that kept me interested. It was the processes I was around and the products I was helping make. The first product I worked on was a focusing sleeve for night vision products being used in defense. Night vision is well known now, however at that time it was the first I had ever heard of such a thing, outside of comic books, and it fascinated me. I was part of a process to create products that were cutting edge. The processes in the department I was working in piqued my interest. I wanted to learn how to turn the raw materials into these cool components that would be assembled into a final product that could see in the night like day. I worked deburring parts until I was given a chance to operate a machine that was making the parts I was deburring. The machine was a CNC lathe and the man who was showing me how to operate it was a great mentor. He explained the process at the machine, telling me what the tools were doing and what order they would operate. It was very interesting to me to see a product go into the machine as a raw piece of aluminum and come out of the machine complete in less than a minute. My mentor showed me how to read the inspection equipment and measure the product coming off the machine. After I learned how to read the inspection equipment I started learning how to control the machine as it operated. I was excited and wanted to learn more. I wanted to be able to set up and program the machines to make different parts. It wasn’t long before my attention to detail and ability to follow instruction helped me learn and grow into my career in advanced manufacturing.
I am truly grateful for the opportunities, companies, and people I have met and worked with in advanced manufacturing. During my time in manufacturing, I have been given many opportunities. I have been able to further my education through programs at various companies and have held various leadership roles. I have been involved in advanced manufacturing for over 20 years and still meet new people and see processes and products that are awe inspiring. There are so many opportunities in manufacturing I would never be able to name them all, because I will never know them all. Manufacturing is always advancing. I remember talking to a friend while we were working on a couple of CNC lathes in the early years of my career about how cool it would be if a laser could melt metal instead of cutting it with a tool. Now those processes are a reality in industrial laser and additive manufacturing processes today such as direct metal laser sintering. Advanced manufacturing put people on the moon and will eventually put people on Mars; advanced manufacturing is always reaching new heights.
If you are interested in starting a career in advanced manufacturing, there are many avenues you can take. A career can start grounded in strong education gained from vocational, technical and college programs and from on the job training programs such as an apprenticeship or even an entry-level position at a small company.
Below are a couple of links you may find interesting in helping learn about careers in Advanced Manufacturing:
Bureau of Labor Statistics about careers in manufacturing https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/article/manufacturing.htm
Society of Manufacturing Engineers – http://www.sme.org