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Top Manufacturing Trades in Demand: What's Attracting Your Texas Workforce?

December 10, 2018 by Midlothian Economic Development

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Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes job growth.

The Lone Star State has experienced annual employment growth for 27 consecutive months, according to the latest data from the Texas Workforce Commission. Meanwhile, the state's unemployment rate fell to a record low of 3.8 percent in August.

Despite a nationwide struggle to find strong labor supply for advanced manufacturing, Texas boasts an available workforce, a steady economy, and an outlook for continued growth. Texas manufacturing employs nearly 874,450 people at an average annual salary of $71,500, according to Business Texas. The state also remains the No. 1 exporter for manufacturing exports and shipment value.

Additionally, manufacturing employment shows no signs of letting up. Industry employment is expected to increase 7.2 percent by 2024, spanning a range of skill sets including welders, machine tool operators, industrial machinery mechanics, and more.

With job growth booming, we explored some of the top manufacturing trades in demand, and which roles are attracting the Texas workforce:

Industrial Machinery Mechanics

With an estimated employment growth rate of 28.2 percent between 2014 and 2024, industrial machinery mechanics are clearly — and will likely remain — in high demand. Also called maintenance machinists or machinery maintenance workers, their primary duties include detecting and correcting machine errors before damages occur. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the average annual wage for this role is $54,224.

Supervisors of Production and Operating Workers

Supervisors are typically always in demand within the sector, particularly considering their primary role is to enforce safety and sanitation guidelines — a top priority for any manufacturing business. Between executing personnel actions and developing new production processes, to conducting employee training and inspecting materials or equipment, there is no shortage of skills required for this role. According to the latest data from the TWC, employment growth for manufacturing supervisors is estimated to rise 8.7 percent between 2014 and 2024, and the average annual wage is $68,371.

Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators

Machine tool operators are tasked with operating computer-controlled robots or machines to perform machine functions on plastic or metal workpieces. With an average annual wage of $40,446 and a 19.7 percent estimated employment growth rate by 2024, these operators play a critical role in the manufacturing process. Typical tasks include monitoring control panel displays and machine operation, modifying cutting programs, and adjusting machine controls when needed.  

Welders/Cutters and Solderers/Brazers

Welders and cutters are in charge of flame-cutting or hand-welding equipment to fill indentations, seams, or holes of fabricated metal products. Meanwhile, solderers and brazers join fabricated metal components together using a torch, soldering iron, or welding machine. The average annual wage for these roles is $40,281, and they have an estimated employment growth rate of 8.5 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Tractor-Trailer and Heavy Truck Drivers

Manufacturers of all sizes rely heavily on the trucking industry to deliver products safely, quickly, and securely across the nation to maintain strict delivery schedules. Tractor-trailer and heavy truck drivers are particularly important as they often handle more cargo than ships, trains, or planes. These heavy truck drivers are tasked with driving a tractor-trailer or truck with a 26,000-pound capacity or more. Their average annual wage is $38,872, and they have an estimated employment growth rate of 16.4 percent by 2024.

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Sales representatives sell goods for manufacturers or wholesalers to groups of individuals or businesses, and their work often requires extensive knowledge of the items sold. Tasked with bringing in revenue and boosting sales for the business, sales representatives play a vital role in manufacturing. Typical duties include estimating price quotes, contract terms, delivery dates, warranties, answering customer questions about products, and offering product demonstrations. With an annual wage of about $69,746 — roughly $1,000 more than a supervisor’s wage — it’s no secret why the employment growth rate is estimated at 9 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Chemical Equipment Tenders and Operators

Chemical equipment operators tend equipment to monitor and control chemical reactions in the processing of consumer or industrial products. Some of the equipment that the operators use includes reactor vessels, steam-jacketed kettles, and devulcanizers. In addition to preventing explosions or fires by observing safety precautions, chemical equipment operators draw product samples to perform analyses, monitor work areas for equipment malfunctions or leaks, and record data from test results, temperatures, or pressures. This position pays an estimated $62,746 annually and boasts a projected employment growth rate of 15.8 percent by 2024.

Wind Turbine Service Technicians

The most in-demand profession in Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is unsurprisingly wind turbine service technicians. As the state shifts towards more environmentally-friendly solutions, the Texas workforce will flock to associated roles to service that industry. Wind turbine technicians are tasked with inspecting and repairing wind turbines to resolve electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic issues with the equipment. With an estimated employment growth rate of 130 percent between 2014 and 2024 and an average annual salary of $55,000, the industry can expect this role to gain in popularity.

Tapping Into the Texas Workforce

This is just a sampling of some of the top manufacturing trades attracting the Texas workforce. As advanced manufacturing industries explore automation and new technologies to enhance machinery and processes, they will discover an increasingly important need for access to a highly skilled workforce. Access to skilled labor will remain a critical factor for manufacturing companies to consider when looking to relocate or expand their business. With a strong labor pool and skilled workforce, Texas continues to hold a commanding lead in these areas for the manufacturing industry.