A shift is taking place among many young people when it comes to a career path. Will racking up tens of thousands in college student debt be worth it down the road? Will a four-year degree really lead to a fulfilling career? It’s not just students who are weighing their options. Half of all Americans who quit their jobs last year made a career change.
What about a career in metal fabrication?
Unfortunately, some have overlooked a career in this type of manufacturing industry based on outdated stereotypes of the past. That’s why we’re here to set the record straight on the top six misconceptions about today’s modern metal fabrication jobs.
To some, welding, machining, and other metal fabrication jobs conjure up images of poor working conditions, sweaty grime, and dirt under their fingernails. There’s a belief among some that metal fabrication lacks the cleanliness and pleasant working conditions associated with other professions. This is a gross misperception of the industry.
Fox Valley Metal-Tech, for example, has well-lit, air-conditioned manufacturing space for all its team members. It might be 90° outside and it’s still comfortable on the shop floor. Cleanliness and well-organized work areas are an important factor in crafting precision metal fabrications without defects. Don’t allow stereotypes of the past to influence your perception of today’s advanced precision metal fabrication industry.
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Closely aligned with a pleasant and organized working environment is a safe one. Safety in any workplace depends on the level of importance placed on it by the employer and the training they provide. Stricter OSHA standards and compliance also make a difference. In fact, worker injuries and illnesses have dropped by nearly 75% since the early 1970s.
When considering which metal fabrication company to work for, ask about their safety record and measures they’re taking to work toward zero recordable injuries. Do they provide safety training and properly maintain their equipment? Proactive companies invite team members to participate in safety audits to help ensure everyone’s well being. Be assured that respectable precision metal fabrication companies place the utmost importance on keeping their work family safe.
Admittedly, there are some metal fabricators that produce thousands of commodity parts each day, making for a highly repetitive job environment. That’s not the case with custom metal fabricators that produce highly complex components for niche industries.
Take, for example, the production of custom electrical enclosures, door hatches, or other components used on a naval ship. The total purchase order may only involve a dozen or so units, each requiring extreme attention to detail during each phase of production. From manufacturing tolerances of +/- .005" to designing jigs and fixtures; from CNC machining and setup to reading and interpreting design drawings; from painting and finishing to laying the perfect weld… it’s anything but monotonous or boring.
Custom metal fabrication involves working with your hands and creativity to come up with solutions for complex projects. It also requires collaboration with team members to determine the best way to build something together and pursue continuous improvement. Those who are skilled metal fabricators view their work as industrial art and take pride in their craftsmanship.
Which sector is the single largest investor in robotics technology? It’s manufacturing. It’s also one of the top research and development (R&D) fields. While custom metal fabrication involves a lot of hands-on work and craftsmanship, it also leverages numerous technologies.
Computerized numerical control (CNC) equipment such as milling machines, laser cutters, press brakes, and routers are commonly used in metal fabrication shops and require skilled programmers and operators. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is used to keep track of projects, timelines, and processes. Computer aided design (CAD) software is used extensively by engineering teams. Those with cybersecurity skills are also in high demand, especially for companies that work with the Department of Defense (DoD) and need to defend national security interests.
The notion that a metal fab shop is “low tech” or “low skill” is clearly a misnomer. The metal fabrication industry needs skilled workers who embrace technology.
Depending on the company, skill level, and the type of work being performed, metal fabrication pay can be highly competitive with other industries. Surprising to many is that wages for some skilled trades are comparable to professions requiring a four-year college degree. Reputable companies also offer great benefits like company paid life insurance and health, vision, and dental, paid time off and holidays, no weekends or mandatory overtime, and first and second shift hours.
When considering an employer, it’s also important to ask about other company perks that might not be reflected on a paycheck. Do they have a wellness program and annual biometrics screenings to help you reach your health goals? Do they have team-building activities and encourage fun every once in a while to strengthen their culture, such as golf outings or corn-hole tournaments (it’s a Wisconsin thing)? Even simple pleasures like on-site food trucks or ice cream socials can build comradery and demonstrate how much a company values its employees and its culture.
An employer also needs to demonstrate that it supports its employees by providing growth opportunities and a promising career path. Many metal fabrication companies offer in-depth training, certifications, mentorships, advancement opportunities, and other measures to provide growth and increased wage incentives. All skill levels are needed in the industry and, if the company is growing, chances are you can grow with it and have a long, fulfilling career.
The pandemic created a shift in how people view employment, prompting many of them to participate in the “Great Resignation.” A recent Gartner survey of employees sought to understand why. They found that more than half (52%) questioned the purpose of their day-to-day jobs and 56% wanted to contribute more to society.
Some metal fabrication employers have a deep-seeded commitment to making a difference that goes beyond just producing commodity parts and posting a mission statement on their website. Metal fabricators that perform work for the U.S. military, for example, can have a strong sense that they’re playing a role in national defense and keeping the nation and our troops safe. They’re also producing “Made in the USA” products, helping to keep jobs at home.
At Fox Valley Metal-Tech, we have many veterans who find comradery working together as a team, and great pride knowing they still have a hand in supporting our military through the projects we’re entrusted to build for them.
Finding personal satisfaction and supporting a mission you believe in can bring meaning to your work. But it’s also important to know that the company you work for is financially stable and growing with a strong pipeline for the future.
Not all metal fabrication companies are the same. If you’d like to explore a career at Fox Valley Metal-Tech located in Green Bay, Wisconsin and work with our team of skilled fabricators, check out our current job opportunities. Ideal candidates are those who are willing and hungry to learn and value a collaborative culture. We’re happy to answer questions and take you on a tour to help you envision yourself on our team.