3 Reasons To Apply Technical Skills To an Automation Career

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Automation is the future that’s already here for American workers with mechanical and electrical skills. 

Machines increase the efficiency of supply chains that are the lifeblood of the economy. Robotics, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), and software used to ship goods across the world are becoming the backbone of our society. Automation systems are also seeing minimal impact from COVID-19 and other large scale changes.

All that means technicians with the experience and skill necessary to build and service those mechanical systems are going to be in high demand for a long time.

To get more details on what it takes to join this growing field, we spoke to Aerotek National Recruiter Blake Poore. 

When asked when to get started in automation, Poore responded, “The best time was probably years ago, but the second-best time is now.”

Get advanced training for a technical career

For reasons of safety and effectiveness, most automation jobs do require specific technical skill and experience to gain entry. 

“This is not a job that people are getting right out of high school,” says Poore, “so training and upskilling is necessary.” 

But depending on the role, your existing technical experience may be enough to earn you a look. Field technician opportunities may be available to those with military or hands-on trade experience, or formal training in a tech school or degree program.

“Start with companies that are around you,” says Poore,” then look into requirements for available positions.” 

Once you know what’s needed, you can work backwards to find the right level of training. Your prior experience could qualify you for bridge programs that train people with general mechanical and electrical skills to develop the more niche skills involved in automation service. 

“There’s plenty on good old YouTube to give you an idea of what you’ll need to know,” says Poore. 

Plan for long-term career growth

While a certain amount of training and expertise are required to get started in automation, the field does offer a clear track to career growth for anybody who wants to climb aboard. 

“It’s very easy to walk from your first automation role up to more specialized job titles,” says Poore. “The most important thing is to have the end goal in mind — if you can make and stick to plans for three to five years from now, you’ll thrive.”

Before you start in automation, get to know the basics of the job duties. At first, you can expect roles to involve some amount of changing belts or clearing jams, with a daily flow of work orders to independently complete. Travel will also be involved, with even more miles to log as you progress to higher-level roles.

If that sounds like a career path that matches your interests and personality, look into destination titles such as reliability engineer or controls engineer to see if anything seems especially desirable.

“When you eventually specialize in PLC programming or troubleshooting, and fill roles such as team lead, supervisor, shift leader — that’s when you can really pull away from other fields in terms of salary,” says Poore.

Join a field that has diverse opportunities

“Automation technician” is a blanket term that can include a wide range of roles and responsibilities. 

It’s also the tip of the iceberg with regard to positions available in an innovative field.

“This industry also needs people who are consultants and supervisors, order processors and administrators,” says Poore. “And thanks to all the innovation that’s happening, there will be positions a year from now that don’t even exist yet.”

“You’re not gonna go wrong with a general base in the field,” he adds. “Somebody has to build, service and ship these machines, and those are good jobs with growth potential that people want.” 

If you’re looking for a solid long-term career path with excellent prospects, now’s the time to look into automation.

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