Chances are you've never thought about who assembled the hair dryer you use each morning or the high heels you wear to work. We may take these and other items for granted, but production workers are hard at work each day, turning out the many products we rely on in our daily lives. "Production worker" is a general job title that describes a wide variety of specialized occupations. Although about 57 percent of production workers are employed in the manufacturing industry, others can be found in food processing, medical equipment settings and diverse non-manufacturing industries. Long gone are the days of considering production to be "men's work." Facing shortages in finding skilled production workers, more employers are looking to the female work force.
Duties vary by job setting -- production workers may be machine operators, equipment assemblers, engravers, fabricators, food processors, glass blowers, pattern makers, plant operators, welders, wood workers, and employees in related positions. Production workers are generally responsible for turning out products or parts of products. They may construct items by hand, by machine or using specialized tools. Don't mind getting down and dirty? Job duties usually involve physical labor such as cutting, molding, mixing, assembling or welding, although technology has certainly made things easier. You can find production workers in warehouses, plants, laboratories and other manufacturing facilities.
Education and Experience Requirements
Production workers usually need a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent, but basic college courses in mathematics, CAD, business and other related courses can be a good starting point for new workers. If college isn't for you, don't worry -- because positions are so specialized, many workers get extensive on-the-job training. Professional certifications may be required by workers in certain fields, such as wastewater and water treatment plant operators. Some production occupations can be risky business and may require extensive safety training.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that production workers pulled in a median salary of $19,450 to $65,360 in 2010. Those with advanced skills or education -- such as power plant operators -- can expect to make a little more than employees in positions with less technical and mechanical skill requirements.
If you're looking to get into the production field, brush up on your technical skills. While many manufacturing companies have been replacing low-skilled workers with computer automation, in 2011 the New York Times reported that employers were facing a shortage of workers with advanced skills such as reading blueprints and operating complex machinery. The manufacturing industry is not expected to add a significant number of jobs, but job availability is expected to remain stable as skilled workers continue to retire.
- O*NET OnLine: Production Workers, All Other
- Deloitte: Women in Manufacturing
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Production Occupations
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- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities: Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries
- Manufacturing.Net: America's Skilled Worker Shortage
- California Community College Economic and Workforce Development Program: Shortage of Qualified Production Workers
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