SWOT of Transport-related Mechanic/Machinist Workforce
The transportation industry includes mechanics and machinists who have special skill sets and certifications to perform a wide range of tasks within the industry. While the rise of technology has made some of their tasks easier by creating better tools it is also taking away jobs as the industry finds new ways to automate. In some places, this has become a rising problem within the industry, and it seems as if it will only get worse in the future. The main savior for many jobs though is the need for advanced skill sets to work and maintain the automation parts and pieces.
One of the most important strengths of the industry is that automation is a very new part of the transportation industry. They are just in the first phases of the testing self-driving cars and 18-wheelers. For a while, they will still need the drivers to ensure that the bots are working the way they are intended to be and report any bugs. There is at least a decade before we start seeing the use of these kinds of vehicles, but even when they start hitting the market and being used there will still be a need for mechanics to service and machinist to produce parts. The machinist industry is expected to grow by 2% and mechanics by 9% in the coming decade. These numbers also could be low because they are mostly assuming general trends stay the same, so if automation more quickly hits the market or booms, there may also be a boom in the machinist and mechanic industry as well to keep up with demand.
The most challenging weakness seen in the skilled worker industry is a decline in new workers coming into the industry. With fewer workers entering the industry there aren't as many workers to replace the ones that are soon to retire. This can be as much as 40% of the workforce that retires within the next decade. The lack of having new entrants causes companies to look for other ways to replace workers or bolster their forces which can be either outsourcing or replacing workers with technology that does the same job.
An example of this is in the aviation industry where the median age of workers is 51 years old. New workers that take aviation training also don't always continue into the industry, and as many as 30% take a different job when done training. Speculated reasons for this involve the wages and benefits for aviation mechanics, but no further information was provided.
Another industry being affected by shortages is the auto mechanics. Vehicles have become more technologically advanced but less high schools are teaching vocational programs to students resulting in fewer workers with the skills to enter the workforce after high school. Turnover is up to 20% for auto mechanics and many of those currently employed fall into the Baby Boomer generation who are largely set to retire in the next 5-10 years. Like stated above there are not enough new workers entering the field to make up for those retiring which will cause a gap and cost companies a pretty penny to find solutions.
There are innovations coming to the car and truck-making industry that will allow for automation of these vehicles. There will need to be workers in place as machinists to create these and mechanics to maintain them in the long run. Coming with this new technology will be new certifications needed by workers to perform their jobs. Many different organizations are already working on updating their programs to include information on how technology is shaping the jobs of mechanics and machinist. They are also creating new certifications and classes that can be taken to work on more advanced technology used in automation and even AI type systems. It is important that companies work on getting these certifications for their workers and that employees take advantage of the chance to get the certifications. Not far in the future, these jobs will become incredibly important, and those with the skills will fare better in the job market then those that didn't get the certifications.
The biggest threat is automation because as employers find more ways to automate different jobs those jobs are lost to the employees that used to work them. So far automation has taken over between 360,000 to 670,000 jobs and while this is less than 1% of the employment-population more jobs are becoming automated. Another similar threat is the growth and evolution of AI. As scientist and engineers create better robots that can think and process the information they can do more jobs and work more efficiently. Between robots and AI, technology wages have seen a $0.25-0.50 decline with one robot per thousand workers. Another threat is the loss of jobs to outsourcing. In the 15 years between 2001 and 2016, 54,000 manufacturing companies left the US for other countries that have cheaper labor costs. Companies can save money by sending their work to Mexico or China where workers get significantly lower wages for the same levels of work. This takes the jobs away from the US and makes it unlikely the jobs will return due to the money companies would lose in bringing them back.
Two sets of notable resources on the list of sources are the Bureau of Labor Statistics pages on Automotive Mechanics and the page for Machinists. There is also an Industry at a Glance report along with the general information pages that go over what they believe the trends to be in the coming years. They also go into more detail into current trends of how many workers are employed in different parts of the industries and the expected change over the next ten years (2016-2026).
The mechanic and machinist fields are seeing a decline in their employment-population because they are seeing more workers retire than new workers coming into the force creating a gap. They also see more use of automation in their jobs and the transportation industry as a whole. While many of their jobs aren't yet at risk to automation fewer workers to work means that companies need to look for other solutions.