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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Columns

Back to our roots


From the steel mills of Pittsburgh to the automotive factories of Detroit, America has been built by the sweat and blood of factory workers. Nothing has ever been as definitive and symbolic of industrial America as the assembly lines, or the iconic blue-collar man who works nine-to-five shifts at the plant.

And nothing has been stereotyped as a worse job. The common image of factory work is that of back-breaking menial labor for very little pay. That proud factory worker quickly becomes a slave to his corporate masters who underpay him so he can make, piece-by-piece, $15,000 vehicles that no longer easily drive off the lots.

The idea of working in one of these legalized sweat shops horrifies some Americans. This same breed of American also laments that tuition costs are too high. Checking into modern factory work might remedy both situations.

Welcome to the new era of modern American industry. While jobs in other industries are in scarce numbers, there are ample amounts of factory jobs open to the newest generation of Americans. Just as there are twice as many engineering positions as there are actual engineer students in America, the opportunity to work in America is still here.

It’s just that students coming straight out of high school are expected to make something out of their life by shelling out thousands of dollars for a four-year degree they don’t have a clue how they’ll use.

But still, the shame of working in manufacturing must be hard on these kids who have been told they can be anything they want to be. They apparently have yet to consider serious manufacturing work, such as becoming a machinist. For the first two years, they can work as an apprentice, essentially learning the tricks of the trade. After apprenticeship, their starting salary is $50,000.

Now, what is the starting salary of your average, fresh-out-of-college graduate? $46,000, even after doubling-down on student loans for that psychology degree you still need a master’s for if you want to even find a job.

Ten years later after high school, the machinist could be looking at a salary of at least $100,000 a year. The college graduate six years later? If he or she hasn’t caught his or her lucky break and found a stable job at a company that’s not looking to downsize, chances are, with today’s political climate, he or she will be posting pictures of themselves holding signs describing how it’s unfair that they don’t have a well-paying job.

To be clear, this isn’t an anti-education rant. Higher education is one of the most important and life-building hallmarks of society. That being said, it is still a luxury.

The cost of tuition and the current economy should be forcing people to understand the purpose of college — to prepare you for a career for which you are well-suited.

College, as many people have now found out, is expensive and does not promise a job.

With so many open manufacturing jobs with such rewarding salaries, it boggles the mind as to why some people would lie to themselves for four years, saying everything will be okay once they finally leave campus for good.

While the benefits of college are still incredibly rewarding and trump all other choices, manufacturing — the essential icon of the last great generation of Americans — is what America was built on and what will advance America in the future.

We need our engineers to design and create new wonders. We need the next Bill Gates. We need the next Steve Jobs. We need thinkers and responsible citizens. We need aspiring entrepreneurs and bold, yet moral, political leaders to lead our great nation and win this new “Cold War” against China — an economic powerhouse.

But in America, we have the choice. Some choose higher education, and if it’s truly your passion, then by all means, pursue it. But reality demands practicality.

When the costs of college aren’t worth the slim chances for the career that you want, it might be time to suck up your pride and change your mind about actively working for a living. And if that work can add up to $100,000 in just ten years, then it’s well worth the sacrifice.

James Wang is a history freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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