Last week, I read the news that technology giant Hewlett-Packard was laying off 27,000 workers because of disappointing sales results. Some employment analyst expected many of these workers to quickly land on their feet elsewhere, but not everyone thought the road to re-entering the workforce would be that simple, with other technology companies also expected to shed jobs in the near term.
For high school and college graduates getting ready to enter the workforce, this news is probably very disheartening. But there is a sector of the work world that is just begging for workers right now – and this will probably remain the case for the foreseeable future: Agricultural equipment manufacturing. As I wrote in a recent column, I’ve just spent one week visiting agricultural equipment manufacturers across the state of Iowa. With few exceptions, every one of these companies was actively looking for young people to join their workforces, helping to build the next generation of agricultural equipment.
Besides visiting job fairs in their areas and posting positions on large signs outside their facilities, many of these companies have begun to fund programs to encourage the next generation of workers to consider getting skills in such fields as drafting, welding and fabricating. Furthermore, the pay scale for these workers is pretty good, with many positions starting at between $14 and $18 per hour. For a young person just starting out, making approximately $40,000 per year in salary sure beats working at the local big box retailer for $7 per hour, with no benefits.
“A lot of the young folks we talk with haven’t really considered working in manufacturing, in part because the popular media portrays sectors like the auto industry as depressed,” one ag equipment manufacturer told me during a stop. “But when we show them how good times are right now for agriculture and what kind of opportunities exist in our area, a lot of them change their minds.”
Again, it’s great to hear that agriculture is once more leading the way in this good old-fashioned, “Made in America” kind of tradition.