Labor Demands Outpace Available CNC Machining Professionals

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Sep 30, 2020

Sep 30, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

p>According to the National Association of Manufacturers, in the United States, manufacturing employs more than 12.2 million people across all industrial sectors. Manufacturing includes a variety of roles, but one of the jobs most in-demand right now is that of a CNC machining professional. 

What is a CNC Machining Professional?

A CNC machining professional (sometimes referred to as a CNC operator or machinist) is the individual responsible for feeding data and instruction into a computer on a shop floor or in a factory. The computer, in turn, uses that data to control a manufacturing tool. That’s why the role is called a CNC machinist: CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. The CNC machining services professional might be inputting programming for a tool that’s a CNC lathe, mill, grinder, or drill. 

Manufacturers use CNC machines to cut metal and to facilitate creating the plastic and metal components for a plethora of devices and items. CNC machines save time and also help companies decrease the amounts of errors in items that require high accuracy. Multiple industries utilize items that are produced using CNC machines, from the automobile industry to aerospace to health care. Take a look around you. Something in your room or within your eyesight was probably made, in part, with a CNC machine. 

Growth in Manufacturing—Especially Machining

As disposable income levels rise, so does the demand for mass-produced items. Deloitte’s research indicates that by 2025, there will be an estimated 3.5 million manufacturing roles available. They expect that less than half of those (only 1.5 million) will be filled. That means that there will be a significantly greater demand for workers than the number of workers who have the necessary skills and knowledge.

Manufacturing demands continue to increase, and simultaneously, companies are implementing technology advances, such as IoT sensors. With the integration of IoT sensors and components, the need for advanced machining skills only increases. Additionally, with machining equipment specifically, revenues are expected to hit $134 billion by 2030. In other words, the demand for machining tools (and subsequently jobs) is expected to continue to rise.

In November 2020, national unemployment rates were at 6.7%. Data from November for individual states can be found on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website, where the lowest unemployment rate is in Nebraska, with 3.1%, and the highest is New Jersey’s 10.2%. Given the growth that’s projected and the current unmet demand for workers, a CNC machining role would provide job stability. Let’s take a closer look at several states, the demand for workers, and potential salaries. 

Salaries and Demand Across the Nation 

Nationally, there is a great demand for CNC operators, programmers, machinists. The job requires a blending of computer skills and machine knowledge. The connotation of factory work may be of a dusty, grimy building, but that is not an accurate representation of today’s CNC machine facilities. If you’re interested in a specific state’s salaries, this is a useful resource. Here are highlights from three states, from the West Coast, the Midwest, and the East Coast, of the job market for CNC machining services professionals. 

California 

Earlier this month, an op-ed in Ventura, California’s VC Star, wrote about manufacturing as a pathway that’s hungry for more workers. It’s also a pathway that allows technologically-oriented individuals the opportunity to pursue a career working with their hands alongside technology. The article also points out that the Economic Development Collaborative identified manufacturing as one of six key industries in Ventura County. Manufacturing, as a sector, is incredibly strong in Ventura County. 

Not only is there high demand, but there’s also a great salary. In an Industry Cluster Study that the Economic Development Collaborative conducted, they found that Metalworking Technology grew by the largest number of new jobs over a five year period. According to Ventura County’s Economic Development Collaborative, the average annual earnings for someone working in manufacturing is $118,627.

In response to the growing demand, Ventura College is launching a new program in the Spring 2021 semester that is for an advanced manufacturing degree. Students will receive training on CNC machines, including 3- and 5-axis milling machines. The program has an option for pre-apprenticeship as well as apprenticeship. Within three years, students can earn a Journeyman Machinist Card from the Department of Labor. That card is valid throughout the entire United States.

Connecticut

In Connecticut, the Connecticut Department of Labor predicted in its February 2020 report, Connecticut’s Manufacturing and Other Middle-skills Jobs, that the CNC employment of machinists will grow 23% by 2024. That means that an average of nearly 150 CNC machinist professional jobs will open up each year. They anticipate that CNC Machine Tool Programmers will see an average of 111 job openings each year. The annual average wage for a CNC Machine Tool Programmer in Connecticut is $67,057. Goodwin University points out that nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects roughly “8,000 jobs to open up to prospective workers by 2026.” They also state that as of the writing, “there are currently over 4,600 manufacturers in Connecticut, some 165,000 jobs in the state, and nearly 700 openings today.”

Wisconsin 

There are currently more than 1,235 CNC machinist jobs available in Wisconsin. Demand is decidedly outpacing the number of workers available. Local station, Action 2 News covered a program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College that partners with area high schools. The program is specifically so that high school students can gain some exposure to the CNC machining trade. The article quotes Joe Draves, Associate Dean for Manufacturing at NWTC, “The Manufacturing Alliance has recognized machining as one of the hardest positions to fill year in and year out, there’s a huge demand and the pay is good.” 

Impact of COVID-19 on CNC Manufacturing Professionals

COVID-19 has changed the landscape of manufacturing and accelerated digital transformation in the factories. This spills over into CNC machining careers in the United States. Manufacturers learned about the disadvantages and disruption of having a supply chain on the other side of the globe. That disruption, coupled together with dropping prices of labor due to more machine-heavy factories, has sped up the reshoring process. 

Technavio’s report, titled Global CNC Vertical Machining Centers Market 2020-2024, looks at the impact of COVID-19 on CNC machines. They state, “As the markets recover Technavio expects the CNC vertical machining centers market size to grow by USD 975.74 million during the period 2020-2024.” The market will continue to grow, and demand for jobs, with it. 

When the demand for skilled workers outpaces the number of people going into a trade, there is opportunity. In circumstances like this, where 5G can potentially change how CNC machine shops work and function, where the IoT sensors are already being integrated, there is more than opportunity. Savvy individuals who are looking for a challenging and exciting technologically-oriented career should take a look at the CNC machining profession.