Modern manufacturing: 'Not your grandfather's industry anymore'

BASF executive explains how this underrepresented field offers well-paid careers for new prospects.

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Modern manufacturing will generate 4.6 million high-skilled jobs by 2028, yet half of these may potentially go unfilled due to lack of skilled workers and outdated perceptiosn of the industry, according to The Manufacturing Institute (NAM).

Are you or someone you know possibly thinking about what path to take in their life in terms of a job that might build a long-lasting, well-paid career?

If so, BASF has a great suggestion for you – manufacturing. Before you start conjuring up images of a long, hard day of manual labor, such as in films The Promised Land, Blue Collar, Norma Rae, or North Country – the global company has news for you – the industry has evolved since then.

What once took long hours of manual labor to achieve is now replaced by technology that can help you get there. 

“If you walk into one of our manufacturing facilities today, you’ll see our operators using tablets or smartphones; in order to do our inspections, you might see a few drones flying around to access those areas that in the past we would’ve accessed running 20 flights of stairs,” said Erika Peterman, Sr. Vice President, Chemical Intermediates, North America, BASF, who spoke at Tom Tom Foundation’s recent Race & Equity in the Workplace panel titled ‘From the Classroom to the Boardroom.’

 “We use technology a lot more now than we have in the past to make sure that our operations proceed in a safe manner for our employees,” she added.

BASF has more than 90 manufacturing facilities located in North America that produce various materials from precious metals and catalytic converters, to fibers to a range of chemicals, such as solvents, resins, and glues, among others. Some of these materials are responsible for making clothing, sportswear, floor covering, automobile parts and personal-care products to name a few.

On the BASF career website, there are currently more than 200 jobs posted in the fields of production, maintenance and technical services roles, all which fall under manufacturing.

“Working in manufacturing in the past was much more task-oriented, a bit more manual work involved in terms of working as an operations technician,” said Peterman. “Today, when we hire people, we try to emphasize the role that technology plays in day-to-day activities. We’re looking for people who can think critically, communicate well with others, troubleshoot and problem solve as part of their daily work.”

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Erika Peterman, Sr. Vice President, Chemical Intermediates, North America, BASF

We’re looking for people who can think critically, communicate well with others, troubleshoot and problem solve as part of their daily work.”


Erika Peterman

In the hour-long discussion on opportunities in manufacturing, panelists spoke about how this field with an outdated perception has evolved from a physical job to an intellectual one, where creative solutions to foster innovation are needed now more than ever to solve the world’s future problems.

Do you want to be a part of the solution but don’t have any experience in manufacturing? No problem. There are schools, courses and even apprenticeship programs in place to get you on your way there.

“People don’t realize there’s programs that build the skills and set you up for these great-paying jobs,” Peterman added.

BASF has an apprenticeship program in place that combines on-the-job training with partners from local colleges, which enables people to ‘earn while they learn.’

“This program allows you to go form zero experience to a 16-month program that earns you a certificate, which allows you to get an adequate job that helps provide for your family,” Peterman concluded, referring specifically to BASF’s apprenticeship program in Freeport, Texas. “Not enough people know about these opportunities. There’s great jobs to be had in manufacturing.”

The world needs creative solutions, and that could be you.

To watch the panel discussion on manufacturing job opportunities with BASF executive Erika Peterman, click here. To learn more about BASF’s apprenticeship program, click here.


Published on April 30, 2021, by Anna Spiewak.

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