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Understand These Two Things:

Posted: December 27, 2019 — I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little; but there is a big problem.  Many of us are aware of it; but there are two important things that few people understand that can help us to work toward a solution.

Google this: “crisis middle level skilled jobs”  Go ahead, Google it, really.  You will find plenty of articles from reputable sources about the shortage of workers in “middle level skilled jobs,” (jobs requiring more than a high school education, but less than a 4-year degree).  And yes . . . articles that use the words “economic crisis.”  This is a problem nationally, regionally, and also locally.

“Yes, yes, yes.” you might be thinking.  “I know about this.”  We know how difficult it is to hire a plumber and we have heard how welders can make so much money.  Thank you to Mike Rowe for spreading the word.

But there is more to it that very few people understand about jobs (careers, actually) in technical fields.

First of all, when many think of middle-level skilled jobs, they think of the trades.  What few people understand is the myriad of middle level skilled careers that are not in the trades.  In my role at FMCC I have had the privilege to teach 25 customized courses for 16 local employers.  After time on-site and after class discussions with more than 300 employees in these roles, I clearly see the demand for local, technically skilled workers to troubleshoot and upgrade the increasing level of automation.  These roles are a level at or above maintenance work; but not at the engineering level.  More and more equipment is “computer-controlled,” or, more accurately, controlled by PLCs (programmable logic controllers) or microprocessors.  The ability to understand connections, sensors, actuators, pneumatics, and control systems is in strong demand locally.  I have seen this with manufacturers, distribution centers, the service industry, and equipment manufacturers.  Two local employers have told me of holding off from significant upgrades or additional business because the inability to find skilled technical help is holding them back.

The second factor to understand is the difference between the roles of Technicians and Engineers.  What many perceive as engineering roles is actually technician level work now.  If one likes hands-on building, improving, and learning how things work; a technician role might be better.  Currently in this country, only about 59% of students entering a 4-year program graduate with a degree within six years.  For engineering, it is only a little over half of that.  I don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing an engineering degree; but it is critical that high school students and parents take a good look at the actual roles of engineers vs. technicians so they can make informed decisions about their path.  At least look into a B.S. in Engineering Technology.  Or, starting as a Technician, one can land a well-paying job with little or no college debt.  If one chooses to pursue engineering, there are pathways to earn a degree with many employers covering the costs.  If you do well in calculus and physics, then definitely pursue engineering.  But if not, start as a technician and you can become a better engineer.

The opportunities are fantastic.  Just take a good look at careers that start between the trades and engineering.

Contact FM’s Office of Admissions at any time to schedule a time for a campus tour and to see firsthand what we have to offer in this field.

This article was written by Jeremy Spraggs, Assistant Professor at FM.

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