Energy in Manufacturing – Career Outlook
Energy is essential to the manufacturing Industry. In fact, to manufacture anything, a reliable energy supply as well as the ability to convert and control that supply is necessary. Factories are full of devices requiring energy, in all forms, to operate.
In some facilities, energy comes in the form of electricity while others also use heat, steam and pressure. Some plants burn carbon based products such as coal, oil or plant waste to transform energy into a usable form while others take electricity directly off the grid and transform it into the appropriate voltage levels, current and power. Sophisticated automation and control systems ensure the work products and components are formed and come together in just the right way or at just the right time.
Energy in manufacturing is literally converted, moved and controlled throughout the plant. Consequently, the overall cost of manufacturing in the United States is tied closely to the cost of energy in manufacturing. Such is also the story of jobs in the manufacturing industry.
Drivers in the Manufacturing Sector
With the recent resurgence in manufacturing in the US, this means the demand for energy to power those jobs has increased. This demand comes at a time when there are increasing options in the field of energy and for energy in manufacturing.
As of the first quarter 2014, there were over 260,000 job openings in manufacturing in the USA. It’s true, the BLS does project a decline in new jobs in manufacturing through 2022. However, largely due to retirement of the aging workforce, continued job openings will remain strong.
Supporting industries have also felt this increase in job openings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects there will be a steady increase in auto sector job openings, around 5% over the next 10 years. Along with this growth is a drive to reduce carbon emissions and increase efficiency standards.
Energy in Manufacturing – Energy Star Compliance
With new federal regulations on energy consumption, factories will need to hire engineers to help with reduction in energy costs. This means both electrical and mechanical engineering jobs will increase. While the BLS projects slower than average growth for electrical engineers over all (7% over the next 10 years), that does not take into account the energy sector specifically.
Energy Star compliance can also lead to an increase in industrial engineering jobs. Again, while the BLS projects only 5% growth for the industrial engineering industry overall, engineers specializing in energy and energy sector jobs should see better than average growth according to experts.
Energy in Manufacturing – Green Energy Sector
As investments lead to an increase in manufacturing reliance on green energy, experts will be needed to assess the applicability of wind, solar and other green energy technologies. While growth in the green energy sector is slower than was previously anticipated, research and development of specific applications of green technology is projected to continue to grow spurred on by federal government regulations on green manufacturing processes.
Gas and Oil Industry Jobs
The boom in oil and gas due to shale oil and fracking will also increase manufacturing jobs. Supplemental industries, such as pipeline production, are seeing spikes in employment that have not been seen in years.
Manufacturing technicians working in energy supporting industries are projected to grow steadily, at a rate of around five percent over the next 10 years according to some studies. This projection is made based on growth since 2006. However, some experts project that as the field gains momentum, job creation in the manufacturing sector will increase accordingly.
Cities like Youngstown, Ohio are seeing a revival in energy sector manufacturing. Unemployment which stood at 13.3% in early 2010 in that area has dropped to 6.7% this year. This is due to a resurgence of manufacturing of oil and gas equipment. Pipe mills, sheet steel and tubing are all industries that are seeing a resurgence and job creation.
Hands-on jobs in this part of the energy sector generally require a high school diploma for entry level positions and for more advance positions associate’s degrees or experience in the manufacturing field.
Environmental Engineering Impacts
A final sector that is seeing growth is the area of reducing carbon emissions in manufacturing. Since energy consumption is thought to be one of the major contributors to greenhouse gasses, manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce energy related emissions.
One subsector is in the area of combined heat and power. The federal goal is to deploy 40 gigawatts of new combined heat and power, as well as other waste recovery methods by the year 2020. This will require engineering and design advances to meet this goal.
Overall, while increases in manufacturing grow, it may be hard to predict the exact impact on the energy industry. But, you can be assured, growth in manufacturing will impact growth in the energy sector since the two are so closely linked.
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Sources & Related Articles
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014) “Industrial Engineers.”
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014) “Occupational employment projections to 2022.”
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014) “Electrical and Electronics Engineers.”
4. Clean Technica (2014) ”Renewable Energy & Clean Technology: Keys to a Revitalization of US Manufacturing & Job Creation.”
5. The New York Times (2014) “ Boom in Energy Spurs Industry in the Rust Belt.”
6. Renewable Energy World.com (2014) “Will Clean Energy Manufacturing Create US Jobs.”
7. World Resources Institute (2014) “Blue-Green Opportunities: Energy Efficiency and Job Impacts in the U.S. Manufacturing Resurgence.”
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014) “Got Skills? Think Manufacturing.”
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