New Manufacturing Jobs Require Keener Math Skills

Barry Lenson

Jobs Require Keener Math Skills

According to “For Manufacturing Jobs, Workers Brush Up On Math,” a recent report by Niala Boodhoo on NPR, 2 million manufacturing employees lost their jobs during the recent recession, and about 1.5 million of them are still out of work.

Hiring is picking up. But what’s the key to finding a manufacturing job today, as the economy strengthens? According to Boodhoo . . .

“Having basic math knowledge, especially of decimals, is important because of the precise inputs modern machines need . . . But calling these machines computerized is almost a misnomer because there are still plenty of manual calculations. And if you're off, even by a fraction, the equipment can crash.” 

I took four years of vocational education when I was in high school. And although I only worked as a professional machinist off and on after that, I do understand a bit about what Boodhoo is talking about. Operating machinery is all about math. If you put a round aluminum  bar with a one-inch diameter into a lathe and you need to turn it down to a diameter of, say, 7/10 of an inch, you have to know how much to remove, where to set the lathe’s cutting tool, and lots more subtle stuff. We’re talking about math here. And when you’re using computerized machines to produce parts that have complex shapes, making the right calculations gets very complicated indeed. If you blow it, you are going to make a lot of defective parts, and that is going to make your employer very unhappy.

Boohoo reports that colleges and “bridge programs” are putting more stress on mathematics, and teaching basic math skills to students who want to find jobs in manufacturing.

If you’re looking for a job in manufacturing, now could be the time to get an advantage by learning or reviewing the math skills that employers are looking for in job candidates.

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