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Manufacturing Report

Manufacturing: A Changing Middle Skill Workforce for an Industry in Transition


  • Analyzes the major shifts occurring in manufacturing
  • Identifies the jobs that represent the best targets for community college students in the region
  • Compares supply of talent to demand
  • Identifies key skills that are valued by employers


The partnership between our region’s community colleges and industry has never been more important.  LAEDC, as the region’s economic development leader, is a strategic partner facilitating that industry engagement and providing the research expertise from which good planning and decisions can be made.  Together, the colleges and LAEDC are leading this important regional initiative to sustain our economy and deliver opportunity for our residents and businesses.

CCW convenes employers/industry and community colleges to promote collaboration and share insights on talent, technology and trends to strengthen the alignment of education and training that meets the needs of the rapidly changing industries that will dominate our economic future.  CCW links education and workforce partners to establish high-performing regional talent development systems in the Los Angeles region for the rapidly changing industries that will dominate our economic future. The center’s work addresses the talent gaps employers face and the supply of skilled talent to meet projected workforce demand. CCW was founded as a Strong Workforce Program regional project of the 19 community colleges in the Los Angeles region, the L.A./O.C. Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research (COE), and the LAEDC and its Institute of Applied Economics. CCW has several work streams:

• Labor Market Analysis    • Industry Councils    • Regional Program Advisory Meetings    • Work-Based Learning Partnerships   • Company Visits and Career Videos   • Workforce and Education Partners Portal     • Bioscience Industry Portal

This CCW report on the manufacturing industry in the Los Angeles region is the tenth in a series of labor market and occupational reports since 2017.  The purpose of this report is to analyze the major shifts occurring in our region’s manufacturing sector, identify the jobs that have the brightest future for community college students in the region, and provide a wealth of information about talent needs to inform faculty, students, job seekers and others in the workforce development system.  With this report as a guidepost, CCW seeks to facilitate industry-college engagement and partnerships including work-based learning, talent pipeline development and exchange of ideas.


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Industry Outlook

While the face of manufacturing industries is changing, manufacturing still has a very large presence in the Los Angeles region, with strong projections for a number of middle-skill occupations between 2018 and 2022. Our community college system is the primary education and training system for these jobs and careers. For this reason, manufacturing offers significant career opportunity for students attending community colleges in the region. Manufacturing occupations typically pay well, with career advancement potential.

But it is also an industry that has been undergoing its own transformation, transitioning from more labor-intensive processes and production skills to more specialized and multi-functional “high-tech” skills to adapt to significant industrial disruption that has long been taking place.

This transformation has been driven by three phenomena:

  • Advances in material sciences, broadening the number of potential inputs into manufacturing exponentially
  • The explosion in computing power and memory, infusing advanced technologies, i.e. robots, AI, into manufacturing
  • Globalization, opening new markets, expanding supply chains and reducing costs

Manufacturing currently employs over 420,000 workers in the LA Basin across all educational attainment levels and pays workers average wages that are higher relative to the combined average of all industries in the LA Basin.


A mix of high-tech and low-tech, the three largest employing subsectors account for 40 percent of the L.A. Basin’s total manufacturing employment: computers and electronic product manufacturing, fabricated metal product manufacturing, transportation equipment manufacturing


More than 150,000 total job openings will be created in the manufacturing sector in the LA Basin over the next five years, with employers seeking to fill many of those openings with middle-skill workers.


About 43 percent of projected openings will be for middle-skill occupations – an increasing percentage, reinforcing the fact that this industry as well-matched to the community college programs in the Los Angeles Basin.

What do we know about manufacturing jobs and the workforce ?

Looking deeper


Employees in manufacturing earned, on average, $76,250, which is more than the regional average across all industries, $62,550.

Real wages in manufacturing grew overall by 13.4 percent this past decade, more than the wage growth of all industries in the Los Angeles Basin, where inflation-adjusted (real) wages increased by 5 percent.


A large share of the manufacturing workforce in the Los Angeles Basin skews older; more than a quarter (28.5 percent) of workers are age 55 and older; an additional 26.0 percent are 45 years to 54 years of age.  This indicates significant potential for replacement workers due to retirements.

There may be an undersupply of community college students to fill the target occupations grouped together in the concentrations of installation, maintenance and repair, and production.


High-growth, well-paying jobs include electrical and electronics engineering technicians, industrial machinery mechanics, and computer-controlled machine tool operators.

Jobs with a bright future

Within manufacturing, occupations were identified that are fast growing, offer rewarding career paths and are well paid. All 10 occupations are middle-skill, requiring some education or training beyond a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree.

Industrial Machinery Mechanics

What they do: Repair, install, adjust, or maintain industrial production and processing machinery or refinery and pipeline distribution systems.

 Wage: $26/hr.

Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians

What they do: Apply electrical and electronic theory to design, build, repair, calibrate, and modify electrical components, circuitry, controls, and machinery for use by engineering staff.

Wage: $30/hr.

Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators

What they do: Operate computer-controlled machines or robots to perform functions on metal or plastic pieces.

Wage: $18/hr.

Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Programmers

What they do: Develop programs to control machining or processing of metal or plastic parts by automatic machine tools, equipment, or systems.

Wage: $27/hr.

Industrial Engineering Technicians

What they do: Apply engineering theory and principles to problems of industrial layout or manufacturing production. May perform time and motion studies.

Wage: $34/hr.

Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial

What they do: Repair, test, adjust, or install electronic equipment, such as industrial controls, transmitters, and antennas.

Wage: $26/hr.

Mechanical Drafters

What they do: Prepare detailed working diagrams of machinery and mechanical devices, including dimensions, fastening methods, and other engineering information.

Wage: $28/hr.

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

What they do: Operate and install integrated computer/communications systems, consoles, simulators, test and measurement instruments and equipment used to launch, position, and evaluate air and space vehicles.

Wage: $34/hr.


What they do: Set up and operate machine tools to produce precision parts and instruments. Includes precision instrument makers who fabricate, modify, or repair mechanical instruments or maintain industrial machines.

Wage: $20/hr.

Welders, Cutters, Solderers and Brazers

What they do: Use hand-welding, flame-cutting, soldering, or brazing equipment to weld or join metal components on fabricated metal products.

Wage: $18/hr.

Manufacturing Jobs on the Rise

Aerospace manufacturing, electronic instrument manufacturing, and semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing are all major employer industries in the Los Angeles region for the identified target middle-skill occupations in manufacturing.

Skills Employers Want

Transforming Industries = Changing Worker Skills

  • Three-Dimensional printing — aka Additive Manufacturing (Food & Beverage Manufacturing; Furniture Manufacturing; Printing and Related Support Activities; Chemical Manufacturing; Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing; Metal Manufacturing; Machinery Manufacturing)
  • Digital printing and design (Fashion-related Manufacturing; Metal Manufacturing; High-tech Manufacturing)
  • Artificial Intelligence / robotics (Food & Beverage Manufacturing; Chemical Manufacturing; Metal Manufacturing; High-tech Manufacturing)
  • Wearables (semiconductors in fabrics), New Materials (Fashion-related Manufacturing)
  • Internet of Things (Fashion-related Manufacturing; Machinery Manufacturing; High-Tech Manufacturing)
  • Algorithms for trend, inventory and supply chain analyses, as well as predictive maintenance (Fashion-related Manufacturing; Machinery Manufacturing; Transportation Equipment Manufacturing)
  • Sensor Technology (Petroleum and Petroleum Products Manufacturing; High-tech Manufacturing)
  • Big data (Chemical Manufacturing, i.e. chemical, biological and/or therapeutic targeting)
  • Programmable controls knowledge and experience will always be valued, now and in the future.

Soft skills are also highly valued by manufacturers

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving / decision making
  • Interest and aptitude for technology
  • Teamwork / collaboration
  • Attention to detail
  • Dependability