To Class of 2018: Why manufacturing jobs are a great career option

  • Donna Kruzan

    Donna Kruzan

By Donna Kruzan
Guest columnist
Posted5/14/2018 1:00 AM

Dear High School Seniors:

Graduation is right around the corner and many young people are making plans to head to college, a trade school or perhaps the military this fall. Still others are unsure of where their future will lead. If you haven't decided what type of career you'd like to have, you owe it to yourself to consider working for a manufacturer right here in Northern Illinois.


You may know that in most parts of the U.S., there aren't enough people to fill jobs in manufacturing. This has been an issue for several years and experts say that if things don't change, our economy will slow down, hurting U.S. companies and their workers. So, it's extremely important that more Americans make careers in manufacturing.

A good manufacturing company will start you at $12 to $13 per hour. Most will pay for holidays and vacation time and provide health care and other benefits. Many will also be willing to train you on the job and help you advance your education by covering most, if not all, of your future tuition costs.

At Watlow, for example, many of our team members have earned associate's and bachelor's degrees while working full-time. This has allowed them to be promoted to positions with more responsibility, earning more money. We want to invest in our employees so that they have high job satisfaction and see their work at Watlow as a career, not just a job.

You might be wondering what it's like to work in manufacturing. For one thing, today's manufacturing is not like the factories of the past. Most facilities are now brightly lit, comfortable, well-ventilated spaces. The work can be rewarding, and you'll learn many new skills.

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For example, you might be trained in welding or operating computerized machinery or robotics equipment. We hire a lot of new high school grads with no manufacturing experience, and they're often surprised at how rewarding the work is. It feels good to make products that make life better.

What skills can you offer? People who are good at activities that require dexterity like threading a needle, crafts, playing musical instruments and auto repair may have an advantage when it comes to certain production jobs. Or, maybe you're good at fixing things around the house, or you are physically strong and can help move materials or equipment. Make sure you mention these things if you have an interview.

If you decide you want to go to a two-year trade school to learn manufacturing skills such as welding, machine tool building and programming computerized equipment, you will have great job opportunities waiting for you when you graduate. Manufacturers will pay a higher starting salary for those with training, and you will likely advance faster, as long as you exhibit a strong work ethic and a desire to learn leadership skills.

What can you do to launch your career? We recommend that you attend career fairs and visit company websites to learn about employers and what they have to offer. Ask about tuition reimbursement for technical school or college degrees. If you are interviewed, ask what it's like to work there -- including what products you will be creating and what skills you will learn.


Find out if you can be cross-trained for other jobs so that you're not stuck in the same position; it's more rewarding and interesting to learn multiple skills, plus you'll have more opportunities to advance. Unfortunately, not all companies have that mindset, so make sure you ask.

Now it's time to get out there and get noticed! Congratulations on your upcoming graduation, and we send you our best wishes for a successful, fulfilling career.

Donna Kruzan is senior human resource generalist at Watlow Richmond, one of seven U.S. facilities for Watlow,, whose products are used worldwide in industries such as semiconductor processing, energy processes, diesel emissions and medical diagnostics.

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