Angela Schuler found a rewarding job 2½ years ago where she helps turn ideas into products in an economic sector that she hadn’t considered: manufacturing.
"I didn’t necessarily think of manufacturing as a job option when I was at Stony Brook University," she said during a virtual panel discussion. "You go to engineering school and you think, ‘I’m going to work at Google, Boeing, one of these giant corporations’ — and you forget that manufacturers make those corporations’ products work. By working at a manufacturer, you are working with those corporations."
Schuler, who graduated from Stony Brook in 2018, is an applications engineer at Precipart, a maker of gears and mechanical components in East Farmingdale. "I act as a project manager from early concepts [of products] to commercialization...I like being very hands on in all facets of the company," she said.
Schuler joined three other recent college graduates with factory jobs for Friday’s panel discussion, designed to tell 50 high school students and 60 teachers about careers at manufacturing companies on Long Island.
The panel was part of a half-day event to mark national Manufacturing Day. Organizers included Stony Brook, Farmingdale State College and the trade groups Ignite Long Island, ADDAPT and HIA-LI.
"Many will tell you that manufacturing on Long Island is dead since [aerospace giant] Grumman has left, but nothing could be further from the truth," said Ron Loveland, who emceed the event as co-chairman of HIA-LI’s manufacturing committee. "There are more than 3,000 manufacturers in Suffolk and Nassau counties, and they employ over 72,000 people. Manufacturing employees earn, on average, $87,038 per year — much higher than many employed in retail and other sectors," he said.
There were nearly 10,000 job openings at local factories in the past year, "many of which remain unfilled despite the current job market," Loveland said, citing statistics from the nonprofit Workforce Development Institute in Albany.
The panel of young manufacturing workers urged the next generation to pursue internships, even while still in high school, to determine what interests them and where a rewarding career might be found.
"There are dozens of companies and organizations who want you, and want to teach you something," said Joseph Valenti, a quality engineer at Natech Plastics Inc. in Ronkonkoma and instructor at Farmingdale State where he earned two engineering degrees in 2015 and 2017.
Through internships, Valenti said, "you’re going to find what you like and where you want to go. It’s very difficult to decide what you want to do before you actually try it out."
Kumar Persaud agreed, saying he became interested in manufacturing after his mother took him to a bottling factory in Pennsylvania.
While studying at Stony Brook, he made valuable contacts at meetings of the Long Island chapter of the American Society of Materials. "There’s a lot of companies represented at these meetings and that’s where you get to know people and hear about good companies," said Persaud, an engineer from Floral Park who works for Chromalloy, a Rockland County-based producer of parts and protective coatings for jet engines.
After listening to the young employees and questions from the high school audience, factory executives invited the students to visit their websites, take virtual tours and send email inquiries.
"We are looking for creators." said Joseph Spinosa, vice president of business development at defense contractor East/West Industries Inc. in Ronkonkoma. "If you are looking to be part of a team that will take an idea and move it through the process, test it and produce it — manufacturing is a great field to go into."
MANUFACTURING ON LI
* More than 3,000 businesses
* 72,000 employees
* Average salary of $87,038 per year
* 9,920 job openings in the past 12 months
SOURCES: Workforce Development Institute, NYS Department of Labor