When it comes to the current environment for manufacturing jobs in Wilmington, the answer to the “half-full, half-empty” question is decidedly mixed. Yes, there are several manufacturing organizations that have reduced their workforce in response to insufficient demand for their products. At the same time, there are several employers that are adding staff and a couple instances of new businesses moving to the Wilmington area. That is the natural ebb and flow of our capitalist system. If you make a better product cheaper and faster than your competitors then the market rewards you.
What are the implications of this expansion and contraction on an individual level? Sometimes good workers through no fault of their own end up being displaced, laid off or fired. For some people, what they do defines who they are. The natural reaction is to define oneself as a manufacturing worker and not pursue anything other than manufacturing positions. In a place like Wilmington, you could be waiting for some time for those positions to open.
So what are the options?
One option is to start your own company. We will explore that another time.
Another option is to reinvent oneself. What do I mean by that? This is hard work, folks. But here’s what you need to do to get started. Develop a list of all the skills and capabilities that you have. These are your accomplishments over your career. What things do you do well? What things give you satisfaction? How could you use these skills and capabilities in a totally different line of work? I am talking about transferability of skills. How can I convince the owner of this construction company that although I have never done construction, there is lot of similarity to what I did on the production line in my manufacturing company and what he is looking for in an employee? What are some examples? One would be working safely. In my manufacturing job I never had a lost-time accident. In fact our line had one of the best safety records in the company. Another example is working based on a schedule. We had production goals that we were to attain on our shift. We were expected to run at certain efficiencies and to not have scrap above a certain level. In a construction environment you have tasks you are expected to accomplish during a day’s work. There are quality standards for that work that must be met. You try to minimize the amount of rework on a construction job. Another skill that you find in manufacturing and construction is the ability to solve problems. Good problem solvers follow a process that is not dependent on the environment in which they are working. Dependability is a characteristic that you want in both environments. You can’t get the required work done if someone does not report for work.
I know you agree that all these skills are important, but what about the technical skills, the craftsman part of the job? Hopefully there are some examples from your manufacturing work that can address part of that concern. Maybe there are examples of hobbies you have where there is transferability of skills. I would say that technical skills are easier to teach than things like problem solving, safety and dependability. It’s up to you to convince this potential new employer to take a chance and that these other capabilities will outweigh your lack of depth in the technical area.
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