How to Advance (Advancement)
There are several ways for skilled workers to advance. Some move into supervisory and administrative positions in their firms or they start their own shop. Others may take computer courses and become computer-controlled machine tool programmers. With a college degree, a tool and die maker can go into engineering or tool design.
Tool and die makers held about 84,300 jobs in 2008. Most worked in industries that manufacture metalworking machinery, transportation equipment, such as motor vehicle parts, fabricated metal products, and plastics products. Although they are found throughout the country, jobs are most plentiful in the Midwest and the Northeast, where many metalworking companies are located.
Employment is projected to decline moderately. However, excellent job opportunities are expected, as many employers report difficulty finding qualified applicants.
Employment of tool and die makers is projected to decline by 8 percent over the 2008–18 decade, due to foreign competition in manufacturing and advances in automation, including CNC machine tools and computer-aided design, that should improve worker productivity. On the other hand, tool and die makers play a key role in building and maintaining advanced automated manufacturing equipment, which makes them less susceptible to lay-offs from automation than other less skilled production workers. As firms invest in new equipment, modify production techniques, and implement product design changes more rapidly, they will continue to rely heavily on skilled tool and die makers for retooling.
Despite declining employment, excellent job opportunities are expected as many openings will result from workers retiring or leaving the occupation for other reasons. Employers in certain parts of the country report difficulty attracting skilled workers and apprenticeship candidates with the necessary abilities to fill openings. The number of workers receiving training in this occupation is expected to continue to be fewer than the number of openings created each year by tool and die makers who retire or transfer to other occupations. A major factor limiting the number of people entering the occupation is that many young people who have the educational and personal qualifications necessary to learn tool and die making usually prefer to attend college or do not wish to enter production occupations.
Median hourly wages of tool and die makers were $22.32 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $18.00 and $27.99. The lowest 10 percent had earnings of less than $14.69, while the top 10 percent earned more than $34.76.
The pay of apprentices is tied to their skill level. As they gain more skills and reach specific levels of performance and experience, their pay increases. About 22 percent of tool and die makers belong to unions.
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