If you’ve been paying attention to the job market at all (or have listened to Mike Rowe), you know that there is a shortage of good talent in the skilled trades. This includes machinists, electricians, plumbers, HVAC Techs, construction workers, and welders. The list goes on and on. For this article, I’m going to focus on Machinists.
Machinists are amazing. From a chunk of metal, they can make something out of nothing, with super tight tolerances no greater than a fraction of a human hair. They understand math, geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, computer programming, and have the mechanical mind to adjust and tweak the machines when necessary to make sure the part is made exactly as the blueprint indicates. For a non-machinist like me, it seems like magic.
Most machinists I talk to love their trade. They love the drone of the machines, smell of honing fluid and the realization that they are in fact able to make something out of nothing. But they are a dying breed.
Here are several reasons why I believe machinists are so hard to find:
- Machinists are aging and getting ready to retire. The average age of a machinist is 45 years old and growing. As a recruiter, I know this to be true. In fact, 45 seems a little young to me. When advertising for a machinist position, or when I look for available machinists, most candidates I find are 50 years old or older. Of my last several machinist placements, 4 of them have been people over 65 years old.
- Fewer high school graduates choose machining as a career. High schools are great at promoting college, and brag about the statistics of their graduates’ acceptance rates to 4-year institutions. The trades seem to be a 2nd or 3rd option for students that can’t get in. Yes, college is a great option, but not the only great option. I’ve been recruiting and hiring people for a long time and see many people in meaningful and profitable careers – with or without a college degree.
- The tech industry is growing, while manufacturing is shrinking. There’s some room for debate in this statement, but I believe it’s this perception that cause would-be machinists to look for careers elsewhere. The truth is, the manufacturing jobs that are thriving are becoming more technologically advanced, automated, and precise. Machinists are right there in the thick of it with high end CNC machines that can produce more complicated parts at tighter tolerances than ever before.
None of this is all that new. I’ve been recruiting and hiring machinists for over 20 years now, and they’ve always been in short supply. As the shortage gets worse, companies will have to come up with more creative ways to attract and retain talent. In the meantime, if you’re thinking about a career in machining, do it! It’s a solid career with decent pay and there’s always plenty to learn as the trade continues to become more technical.
And by the way, if you know a machinist that is looking for a better opportunity, let me know. There’s a good chance we have an opportunity just waiting for them.