Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Manufacturing Optimism

Can factory jobs be made in America again?

Gastonia, N.C.
For nearly 20 years, Michael Philbeck drove forklifts and fixed machines at a factory here that makes materials for car tires. Over the years, as dozens of other plants west of Charlotte closed, his hung on.
A few years ago, though, Philbeck started looking for ways to boost his pay. With a wife and five kids, the $20 an hour from the Firestone Fibers & Textiles plant wasn't going far.

The Army veteran returned to school, to the local community college. But he didn't train for a career in technology or health care or some other flashy field that receives a lot of positive press. Instead, he started studying something called mechatronics—a blend of mechanical engineering, electronics, and computers.

His new job? It's back at the Firestone plant, where he will make $5 an hour more when he finishes his degree at Gaston College. That works out to a raise of roughly $10,000 a year. Philbeck, 41, says he feels good about staying with the company in a new role, and he's optimistic he can establish himself with skills that are in demand. He doubled down on manufacturing.

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