In 2016, the number of jobs in the construction equipment operation industry was approximately 426,000. Across Michigan, there has been a dearth in skilled workers within the construction and machining sectors.
According to Bridge, a few organizations throughout Michigan are looking for creative ways to encourage employees to pursue careers in skilled machinery and construction.
“We have been warned about this for 20 years that this is coming, a shortage of skilled machinists,” said Penny Challenger of Hayes Manufacturing. “Now it’s here.”
Though the lack of skilled machinists is a serious issue across the entire state, it’s especially troublesome for rural organizations as they attempt to compete with urban employers, typically for the same workers. This rural worker shortage has forced organizations to develop innovative ways to entice machinists into pursuing jobs with them.
Additionally, manufactures in rural areas are at a disadvantage not only because they are secluded from other communities and potential work, but there is a notable disparity in the scope and quality of vocational programs offered to students in these areas. There are 56 intermediate school districts across Michigan, but 23 have no dedicated vocational property tax mileage and usually struggle to support skilled labor training programs.
Shape Corp., a steel and aluminum manufacturer, plans on investing $300,000 over a three-year period to bring a manufacturing program to Grand Haven High School, alongside Michigan Manufacturers Association.
“The idea is to find out what skill is needed and take that to the local high school,” added Mike Johnston, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Manufacturers Association. “This is about creating a program that will create a talent pipeline for the manufacturer but also a career path for kids.”
Computer Numerical Controls (CNC) machining is one of the most common manufacturing methods used to develop products and individual parts. Though Michigan factories need to employ experienced and skilled workers to succeed in this necessary and competitive market, they also should consider many factors when selecting a material for a part or product, including price, corrosion resistance, strength, workability, weight, and appearance.
According to ECN Mag, here are some of the most common metals and alloys that are utilized throughout CNC machining:
- Stainless Steel 304 — Stainless steel 304 is the number one most common grade of stainless steel and is extremely important throughout the machinery industry. This metal is very tough, non-magnetic, and corrosion resistant.
- Magnesium AZ31 — This alloy metal combines aluminum, zinc, and magnesium and is as much as 35% lighter than aluminum with the same durability. Since this material is typically used for aircraft components, it’s a bit more expensive than other alloys.
- Titanium — Titanium is extremely strong, lightweight, and can easily be welded and anodized for appearance and protection needs. This material is hard to refine despite being abundant in the Earth’s crust and is typically used for aerospace, biomedical, industrial, and military applications.
- Aluminum 6061 — The average age of vehicles currently on the road in the United States is roughly 11.6 years. Without aluminum 6061, vehicles would likely break down much earlier. Aluminum 6061 is the most common general-purpose aluminum grade and is used throughout the automotive industry. Since this material has great workability and machinability, it’s perfect for strengthening auto parts.
- Brass — Found in plumbing fitting, home decor, and even musical instruments — this material is one of the most aesthetically pleasing, making it great for cosmetic applications. Additionally, brass can be polished very highly and is naturally resistant to corrosion.
As the majority of human interaction within the labor workforce is being replaced with automated, software-driven equipment, CNC machining techniques will become more important than ever before. In Michigan and across the U.S., more workers need to pursue fields in the construction and machining sector. Hopefully they will.