Dear Matt: I never finished college and am struggling to find work. Is there an industry where I can get a well-paid job without spending four years on a degree?

Matt says: According to the Society of Human Resources 2014 Economic Conditions Survey — Overall Financial Health and Hiring, 50 percent of employers who responded reported having difficulty recruiting for open positions. Recruiting difficulty was mentioned most frequently in manufacturing, where 60 percent of respondents cited a skills gap as the problem.

So if there is one industry looking for workers, it’s manufacturing. The average salary for most Minnesota jobs is $45,052. The median pay for Minnesota manufacturing jobs is $56,316. With the completion of some additional training, some experience and overtime, it’s not uncommon for manufacturing industry professionals to make $70,000 to $100,000 per year.

As Principal of Hockenberg Search (, Marni Hockenberg works closely with executives and movers and shakers within the Minnesota manufacturing industry. She knows how badly employers want to fill open positions. Companies in the electronics, automotive, construction, high tech, metal fabrication, alternative energy, textiles, industrial machinery and food industries are looking for the next generation of workers. “You will find job satisfaction in seeing the results of your work,” says Hockenberg. “Imagine seeing and holding the finished product that you helped to manufacture. This can be more rewarding than working in a call center, making lattes, working a cash register, or sitting in a cubicle for 40 hours a week.”

Check out to get started. Many manufacturing companies feature employee videos on their websites, talking about how they got started in manufacturing and how they like welding, machinery and other skilled trades. If interested contact the HR person to let them know you are willing to start from the bottom doing unskilled labor and then move up.

Want to go to school first? Check out Then contact your local technical college or trade school to learn about the programs available. Many can be completed in one or two years and cost much less than college. Most grads have job offers even before they graduate. If you want to jump right into it, sign up at temp services that specialize in manufacturing labor placement for hourly and shop related jobs. Lots of them don’t require skills — just a good employment record.

“These jobs can help you avoid, reduce or eliminate crushing student debt and have the financial ability to buy a car, house and enjoy a vacation,” says Hockenberg. “Working on a production line can lead to supervisory experience which can lead to management which can lead to the executive office.”

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