(photo via the Mayor's Office)
As the spring semester begins for New York’s high school and undergraduate students, many will soon shift their focus from studies to a career. Generations ago, the options were pretty straightforward for students without an advanced degree: build something or sell something. Today, the job market is quite different.
The information age has opened up all kinds of new opportunities for young people. At the same time, the traditional industrial or manufacturing job has changed as a result. Those who “build something” spend as much time typing up code as pounding out widgets.
Indeed, manufacturing has not left New York—it’s evolved and grown. Largely gone are the massive factory floors and smoke stacks. In their place, we now have clean rooms and miles of fiber optic cable. Are things still made in New York? Yes, lots of things. How they are made, however, looks more like the Jetsons than the Flintstones.
But education and training have not caught up to the new manufacturing age in New York, and now there is a skills – and, frankly, perception – gap when it comes to attracting new workers to growing industries that desperately need to fill well-paying jobs. These jobs include interesting careers in green manufacturing, marrying tech with manufacturing, and local projects related to smart city upgrades.
So how do we close the gap? Through education and training programs, and by actively engaging young people about the opportunities available to them in New York’s modern manufacturing sector.
For instance, here is how companies like ours – Quadlogic and Lee Spring – have adapted and are working to address these challenges.
Lee Spring has been manufacturing metal springs, wire forms and stampings in New York for more than a century. How Lee Spring makes its products has changed remarkably, however. Lee Spring used to physically make each part step-by-step, requiring a labor-intensive multi-step process using multiple machines.
Today, the company has developed automated systems that make the entire part in one step, are calibrated and controlled by technology-enabled factory teams, and monitored by a management team working away from the factory floor. This technology has allowed us to grow internationally, with facilities in six different countries, all overseen by our management team at computers in Brooklyn.
Quadlogic is a relatively new company, making smart meters for municipalities, including New York City. But Quadlogic doesn’t just build the meters here—it has developed a team of information workers who also help cities optimize use of the meters through the Internet of Things. Quadlogic is both a manufacturer and an information company.
And the efficiencies that technology created also allows for relatively modest energy use. There are no smoke stacks at our facilities. They have been replaced by highly-tuned quality-control systems that minimize our carbon footprint.
That’s what manufacturing in 2019 looks like in New York. And we have entry-level jobs available that can easily approach six-figures, even without a four-year college degree and the debt that comes with it. The average manufacturing and industrial sector wage in New York is $65,000. Yet we struggle to find applicants, nevermind good candidates—even though no manufacturing background is typically needed, and most training is on-the-job. Digital skills are a huge plus though.
For those young people interested in a manufacturing career in New York, there are also great programs to put you on a clear path to a good-paying job. High school students can take advantage of the Career Technical Education Industry Scholars Program, which places students with firms like ours. And ApprenticeNYC is a 10-week training program that teaches fundamentals that almost anyone in manufacturing needs to have—blueprints, measuring instruments, and safe workplace training. We have benefited greatly from these programs, often hiring students directly from them who have gone on to take important roles at our companies.
So, for students and others looking for a well-paying, interesting job in an innovative information-age field, there is no reason to leave New York for Silicon Valley. Technology has changed manufacturing in New York. We are not the past; we are the future. And our potential for growth and success is limited only by our innovation, imagination, and finding the next generation of New Yorkers looking to build things in the greatest city in the world.
Thomas George is the Vice President of Technology at Quadlogic. Al Mangels is the President of Lee Spring Company and a member of the Executive Board of the NYC Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Council (MaiiC).