Our nation was built and continues to grow on the foundation of creativity and innovation. We are dreamers as well as doers. Once a promising vision has been formed, we are able to bring it to fruition. This is largely thanks to our expert force of technical workers and engineers. But as more and more of America's brightest young minds head for an office cubicle rather than the shop, we have begun to ask ourselves a critical question - how can we get our students interested in mathematics, science, and technology? Perhaps the answer lies in simply sharing information and increasing the visibility of related careers, like mechanical engineering and machining.
The Draw of Engineering and Machining
- Employment Opportunities
Both the precision machining and mechanical engineering industries are projected to experience continued growth which will increase demand for employees. The demand for skilled technical workers is expected to exceed the workforce supply in all urban areas in the coming years.
- Enjoyable Work
Machining and engineering allow workers to exercise their creativity and apply critical thinking skills to novel and complex problems. Depending on a worker's area of expertise, they may encounter a new project almost daily. It's certainly a far cry from a stuffy boardroom.
- Financial Security
Entry level salary for machinists and engineers tend to be higher than in other industries. And with growing demand for these positions, wages and benefits will only increase in the coming years.
- Bright Future
Rather than being diminished by factors like increased computing speeds and capabilities, technical fields have evolved to capitalize on recent advancements. For instance, most precision machinists are now trained on CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines, which increases their productivity and flexibility.
Possible Career Paths
- Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest and broadest areas of engineering. That means that students going into this particular field have an incredible amount of flexibility. Mechanical engineers use their comprehensive understanding of energy and the specific properties of materials to design a wide range of machines.
The minimum educational requirement for most engineering positions is a bachelor's four-year degree in engineering. In rare circumstances, an engineering position may be filled by a student who majored in a related field like mathematics or physics.
- Precision Machinist
Machinists utilize complex machine tools (drill presses, vices, milling machines, lathes, etc.) to create precision metal parts. Production machinists make numerous copies of a specific part while other types of machinists focus on generating machine parts to make necessary repairs or perform routine maintenance on equipment. There is opportunity for advancement in machining - many machinists receive additional training to become CNC programmers, mold makers, or assume an administrative role.
Machinists typically learn in apprenticeship programs which confers the added benefit of requiring no educational loans. There are also a number of vocational or technical colleges that offer certified programs.
Extracurricular activities and summer programs can also go a long way in encouraging young people to enter technical fields of study. Besides being fun and interactive, these sorts of opportunities allow students to meet and socialize with others who share their interest in math, science, and technology. Many colleges have special student organizations for engineering and technical students like the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). These groups can provide networking and job hunting resources. There are also a number of summer programs available for high-school to college-aged students aimed at sparking interest in technical fields.
College internships not only allow students to get invaluable hands-on experience, they also may open windows of opportunity further down the road. Students who perform well in an internship are likely to be offered a full time position with that company after graduation. It's a great way for students to get their foot in the door.
According to an infographic designed by Microsoft, "The U.S. will have more than 1.2 million job openings in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related occupations by 2018." In order to meet this demand, we need to encourage students to pursue engineering and machining jobs for the future.
Written by Kamal Grewal. Kamal is a speacialist in machinery for training and industrial uses.