December was a tricky month for manufacturers, according to Creighton University’s latest Mid-America Business Conditions Index. Although a stronger U.S. dollar seems as if it would be a good thing for manufacturers, in reality, it makes U.S. goods more expensive for overseas trading partners. The Omaha World-Herald interviewed Creighton Business Professor Ernie Goss to learn more: “The U.S. dollar strengthened by almost 10% in 2015. This, along with economic weakness among the nation’s chief trading partners, has squeezed and will continue to squeeze U.S. and regional manufacturers.”
So, what do all these indexes and numbers really mean? Well, areas and industries dependent on manufacturing, like many in Nebraska and Iowa, have been having a tough time, particularly agricultural equipment manufacturers. However, Goss told WOWT News that these numbers are part of a temporary challenge, and that in the long run, Nebraska is literally the best place in the world to be.
To quote Goss, “[In the] long run you couldn’t have been born or moved to a better place on the face of the earth than the U.S. market in Nebraska long term,” he said. “Better than anyplace else and you don’t have to be out there on a tractor. You can be in Monsanto in a lab, you can be in Cargill in a management’s position. There are a heck of a lot of jobs. So individuals, whether you moved here as I did or were born here, you’re in a pretty darn good place for the long run.”
However, the fact remains that the job market can be tight, depending on your level of experience and area of interest. This is not cause for discouragement; it means that strategy matters when applying for a position.
Manufacturers want to hire, and you want a job—so how can you make your application stand out in the pile when the job market is “tight”? These tips will be useful despite any economic indicator, but they are particularly important to keep in mind if you’re applying for manufacturing jobs with a massive applicant pool.
What’s in Demand? Take a look at what the world needs, and tailor your skills accordingly. For example, Bloomberg published an article last year called “Welders: America Needs You.” Simply put, there’s a shortage of welders, and if you’re a skilled welder, there will be more jobs available than there might be for, say, a college humanities professor position. While welding has largely been seen as a dead-end job, the reality of that has changed into a dynamic, well-paid career.
However, the average age of a welder in the country is 55, and there isn’t enough new blood to take the place of older welders. This is a market rife with possibilities for jobseekers, and there are others like it. For you, maybe this means sharpening your welding skills through a community college certificate, or asking for more experience in welding at your current position. This will give you the advantage in an application for any company looking for welding experience—and there are so many.
Diversify: The key in any job application is to stand out as much as possible. Goss recommends that students should learn a second language, take extra math courses, or even just spend a day learning the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel. “Students will say, well, I can get that in a day or two,” Goss says. “Well, employers are looking at, why should I go with you? You say it’s a day or two, and [another jobseeker] already has it. Why should [the employer] pick you?” Even if it seems simple, add line items to your resume that will highlight your particular application.
Consider a Factory: The WSJ reports that there were 320,000 factory jobs available across the country in just one month, which means that factory workers are in high demand. Factories are not the greasy dungeons of the past, but are often clean, friendly, and high-technology places to work. Additionally, many of the positions available in factories don’t require higher education, or even anything besides 1-2 years of vocational education. Don’t count yourself out of any job market because of a lack of education: there are high-paying jobs available in manufacturing, even with very little education.
Do you have any other tips for manufacturing jobseekers? Leave your comments in the section below, anytime!