Thursday, April 19, 2012

Adapt or Die — Do Your Skills Pay the Bills?

The job market has been tough for many during the last few years, even longer for some, but in times like these you have to look inward and really challenge what it is you want to do with you career — Where do I want to be? How will I get there? What skills will I need?

Published today in The Seattle Times, staff reporter Sanjay Bhatt reports that manufacturing is propelling the state's job growth. She writes, "The state's manufacturing sector added 14,600 jobs — most of that growth in the Seattle area — over the 12 months ending in March, leading all other sectors, according to data released Wednesday by the Employment Security Department. "

This growth comes from companies like Boeing, big name aerospace corporations who have contributed more than half of the new job opportunities. But this also includes other manufacturers, she points out, who are offering jobs in fabricated metal, machines, food products, electronics and even industrial equipment.

Sharon Swanepoel of the Loganville-Grayson Patch asks, "Is manufacturing making a come back?" She writes that although a local electronics store closed, many residents are keeping positive because the rise in job opportunities through the manufacturing sector look promising. The story includes perspective from a vice president in the steel industry who is actively looking to hire welders and steel fabricators.

But, not everyone is cheerleading for more manufacturing in America. In a guest post by Natalie McCullough on, she explains that although Americans have a romantic connection to manufacturing, the "service sector" is really what is boosting the economy.

"The data reflects an ongoing trend: the evolution of American business into a true service economy. As we look to renew our domestic workforce, bold and successful examples of U.S. companies embracing the service economy may help balance the debate and even encourage one of our 2012 Presidential candidates to change their campaign slogan to, 'It’s the Services, Stupid!'"

Is that really where we should be focusing our efforts? The service industry? She points out that Apple is a "logical example of this concept." The launch of iTunes in 2003 was a big step for the company, pioneering a digital service that many of us couldn't imagine living without now. She advises that this strategy, moving towards a focus on services, is where big companies like IBM are headed. She believes this is what will drive the demand for manufactured goods, the products that need the services we offer.

She leaves the reader with these final thoughts, "As unemployment rates continue to remain near all-time highs, a message of renewal for American jobs could not come at a better time. But if we allow our emotional connection to the manufacturing sector to overshadow the tremendous opportunities our service-based economy offers, we do ourselves a disservice. A stronger, more educated workforce that can deliver advanced services contributes to a healthier economy and in the end is good for the country and the world."

No matter what side of the fence you are on, or whether we become a country of manufacturing or of services, we will all need to focus on improving our skills and abilities.

Bud Wisecarver, founder of Bishop-Wisecarver, has also said that a society will only go so far without its toolmakers. Think about that word — toolmaker. What's in your tool belt? Are you equipped to tackle today? How about tomorrow? Ask yourself, "Do I have the right tools to make things happen?"

In an article posted by Katherine Sharpe on, she lists the top ten maker schools you need to take note of — "the schools, proto-universities and DIY collectives" that will help you bone up on the latest and greatest for staying alive in your career.

The number one item listed in her article stands out to us — "Tech Shop" located in a variety of cities including San Francisco. You'll pick up the skills you need in CNC technology, laser cutting, electronics, mircoprogramming, 3D scanning, design software, welding, wood shop, fabrication, textiles and even machining. For just $65 you can take a two hour course on plasma cutter fundamentals.

The resources are out there, and in this day and age, you adapt or die. Will you survive?

— Elizabeth Griffin, Connect on LinkedIn