Explore a Career
in Advanced Manufacturing

If you're looking for a no-brainer career in a dingy, greasy, hazardous factory, you're probably out of luck.

Manufacturing has cleaned up and tuned up, using more light, more technology, more precision, and more ingenuity to produce more refined and more customized products with fewer, but more highly skilled, workers. If you want to be in demand in a vital industry and work with sophisticated equipment to create cutting-edge products, advanced manufacturing could be for you.

Oklahoma Needs You

Manufacturing employs more than 150,000 people in Oklahoma, up from 140,000 in early 2004. Yes, up.

Oklahoma has more than 4,500 manufacturing employers, and many are suffering from critical worker shortages.

Bucking a long downward trend in manufacturing jobs nationally, Oklahoma is now in its fourth year of rising job counts. Surging demand for oilfield equipment and aerospace products has fueled the hiring boom and left manufacturers scrambling for the qualified high-tech workers they need. The number of employers is also up, to 4,683 at the end of 2006. Global competition, shifting demand, and production efficiencies have left the manufacturing industry with fewer jobs, more technology and new staffing challenges. Oklahoma manufacturers have been through the crunch, and the surviving companies have become very, very good, according to Roy Peters, president of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance.

Oklahoma makes sausages, airliner wings, miniature dental implants, mammoth air conditioners, roofing shingles, circuit boards, and thousands of other products used around the world. The big manufacturing sectors, machinery and other metal products, employ more than 45,000 Oklahoma workers. But that's only about a third of the manufacturing population. The rest work in food products (15,000), transportation equipment (15,000), plastics and rubber products (13,000), and many other areas.

What Is Advanced Manufacturing?

Manufacturing simply means making things, especially on a large scale. Add laser cutters, micro-machining, computer-controlled processes, welding robots, and a host of other technology, and you begin to move toward advanced manufacturing. The standard five-part definition says advanced manufacturing:

• Uses computer, high precision, and information technologies

• Employs a high performance workforce

• Can produce varied products in small or large volumes

• Combines the efficiency of mass production with the flexibility of custom manufacturing

• Responds rapidly to customer demands

The technology keeps evolving. It takes different forms in different industries. It may appear in one part of a company's operations before others.

You in Manufacturing

What can YOU do in manufacturing? And how much can you make?

Engineering technician – More hands-on than engineers, techs may assemble prototypes, run tests, estimate costs, monitor production, and assess and improve quality. Many sub-specialties. Electrical and electronic, $49,700. Electro-mechanical, $37,410.

Machinery mechanic – Sophisticated industrial machines sometimes monitor their own workings, but somebody still has to understand the message and know what to do to keep them humming. $38,810.

Machinist – Use your knowledge of metals and tools to operate lathes, milling machines and other tools and produce precisely sized and shaped parts. $32,180.

Mechanical engineer – If it has moving parts, there was probably a mechanical engineer managing the design, construction and testing. $67,510.

Production manager – Coordinate the people, equipment, materials and other resources to produce the right product at the right time, meet quality standards, and stay within budget. $63,340.

Quality control inspector – Is the ring precisely the right size? Does the pump run flawlessly? Is the voltage within spec? Quality inspectors look, feel, measure, and test to make sure. $30,330.

The table below shows more manufacturing occupations, Oklahoma employment in those jobs, and the pay range for most people in those jobs (from the 25th to the 75th percentile).


OccupationEmploymentEarnings range
Management Occupations
Engineering Managers1,710$70,820$109,010
Industrial Production Managers1,540$49,890$82,530
Architecture and Engineering Occupations
Chemical Engineers240$53,110$74,240
Industrial Engineers1,400$52,810$80,140
Materials Engineers140$48,850$74,730
Mechanical Engineers1,890$54,270$80,140
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians1,710$40,080$63,560
Mechanical Engineering Technicians460$32,340$46,390
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations
Commercial and Industrial Designers450$26,810$56,050
Office and Administrative Support Occupations
Shipping, Receiving, and Traffic Clerks6,830$19,600$30,290
Stock Clerks and Order Fillers16,740$15,460$24,030
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations
Industrial Electronics Repairers970$32,870$54,030
Industrial Machinery Mechanics3,970$30,910$48,190
Production Occupations
Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic2,050$23,390$36,250
Various Metal and Plastic Processing Worker Occupations10,690$16,090$41,310
Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers160$34,200$48,740
Production and Planning Clerks3,380$28,280$51,830
Quality Control Inspectors6,070$22,860$41,080
Tool and Die Makers460$35,370$52,890
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers8,250$23,690$35,060
Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders1,390$26,240$35,600


Hear from those who are glad they chose a career in manufacturing.

Beyond Starting Out: Carl Storm, Machinist
Carl Storm

Carl Storm

Cameron Compression Systems
Ponca City, Oklahoma

Machinist Shapes Perfect Fit in New Career

Carl Storm was a man on a mission: to get beyond his general labor jobs and build a career. He enrolled in the two-year Machine Tool Technology program at Pioneer Technology Center in Ponca City, went to school day and night around part-time jobs, and finished in seven months. The day he finished, he applied for three jobs and started one as a machinist at Cooper Energy Services.

The company, now part of the Compression Systems division of Cameron International Corporation, carves blocks of steel into pistons, cylinders, cylinder heads and other precision parts for oilfield pumps and compressors around the world. Carl started seven years ago as a Machinist 1, running a computer-controlled milling center. Now a Machinist 4 and second-shift lead man, he supervises an 18-person crew, makes sure machines are running, reprograms machines as needed, and troubleshoots whatever problems come up.

Why pick machine tools? Carl had had a part-time job working around machine tools before going to Pioneer Tech. Also, he was mechanically inclined and enjoyed math, and he knew the job market for machinists was good. So when machining came up as a fit on his CareerTech assessment, it seemed a natural. It's been a good choice. "There's always something new," Carl says. "I look forward to coming in every day."

Career Changer: Don McElroy, Quality Control Manager
Don McElroy

Don McElroy

Quality Control Manager
Malone's CNC Machining Inc.
Grove, Oklahoma

Move into Manufacturing and out of Uniforms Suits QC Manager

Despite four years of college, Don McElroy was pretty content to keep his old college job shipping and receiving police, fire and other uniforms for a specialty retailer in Southern California. He did it for close to six years before his sister convinced him to try something – and somewhere – completely different.

So Don moved to Oklahoma and went to work at Malone's CNC Machining, a busy military aircraft parts maker in Grove owned by his sister's husband. The green hills and sparkling lake were a welcome relief from the desert fringes of Riverside, California, and working as a machine operator offered new challenges, an opportunity to learn, and the variety of working on thousands of different aircraft parts.

Don put his solid math skills, good organizational habits, and strong visualization abilities to work. He taught himself to read blueprints and learned on the job to operate the precision equipment and handle other responsibilities at the shop. Eventually he moved into a quality inspector slot and later into his current position as quality control manager. In that job he makes sure incoming materials are up to specifications, calibrates machines, uses computer measuring instruments to check specs on finished parts, files reports and keeps records. After 10 years, he's happy he made the move to Oklahoma and to manufacturing.

Veteran: Jeff Griffin, Operations
Jeff Griffin

Jeff Griffin

Quality Control Manager
Malone's CNC Machining Inc.
Grove, Oklahoma

Heating and Air Career Takes Flight with Growing Manufacturer

Jeff Griffin started out as an electrician. Now he heads production at Enviro Systems, Inc., a booming aerospace manufacturer in Seminole. He got his electrician journeyman's license just a couple of years after finishing Varnum High School outside Seminole and went on to earn a mechanical journeyman's license as well. With that, he was able to run a truck and supervise a crew for a local electrical and heating and air conditioning contractor.

After about 10 years, looking for new challenges and growth opportunities, Jeff applied at Enviro Systems, then a small but growing manufacturer of heating and air conditioning systems for small airplanes. He started in production, assembling electrical heaters, but soon found opportunities to help in other areas, such as working with engineers on testing. A few years later, he moved to the front office, where he was responsible for planning and inventory control, as well as working with customers on troubleshooting and parts pricing. In 1997, new growth-oriented ownership took over and soon named Jeff operations manager. Initially, that covered everything from shipping and receiving to planning and production, but with the company's expansion, Jeff's responsibilities narrowed to production and the relatively new manufacturing engineering area.

Success of the Enviro Systems product line, explosive growth in the business jet market, and the 2003 expansion into the helicopter market sent sales skyward. Part of Jeff's role in that growth has been in developing and training the people who build all those hot-selling products. He passes kudos to the Gordon Cooper and other area technology centers that provide ongoing training to teach workers the exact skills they need. Jeff himself is slowly working in some business classes at Seminole State College. And he's pleased with the challenges and growth opportunities he's found at Enviro Systems. "I've been very fortunate," he says, "to be able to work for a company that's growing, that's in the town where I live, and that offers an opportunity to give back to the community."