How To Transition From a Career in Manufacturing to Web Design and Development 

Today I read about another major auto manufacturer laying off employees. My heart goes out to the employees who have spent years working for companies that shut down on just a moment’s notice. At one time, working in auto production was a reliable means to provide for a family. It was a sustainable career with the opportunity to be a part of something big—the biggest industry in our country. 

This article is for all the American manufacturers and production workers who are wondering: what is next? 

They say that when one door closes, another opens. That may be little comfort, but I want you to know there is a door that is wide open to you. Keep reading and please give me the time to let me make my point.

With traditional auto manufacturers undergoing serious restructuring in recent years, a long career at Ford or General Motors isn’t guaranteed as it was in years past. A worker in the past might have stayed with an auto employer for his or her entire career—but with today’s changing economy, many of those employees have been laid off and forced to pursue a career change outside of the industry. The world of work keeps changing, and it is hard to know which way to go. 

The Good News

The good news is that auto production workers have built-in skills that translate well to other industries. The years of training and hard work to build some of the most high-tech and complex machines on the planet has given you wisdom, experience and skills that companies look for. 

If you’re thinking that your experience in the auto industry doesn’t translate well to web design and development, read on. 

How Does Production Experience Relate to a Career in Web Design and Development?

Someone with auto production experience is a natural fit to dive into the world of web design and development. An auto production worker must have excellent attention to detail and focus on completing tasks correctly, skills that are required of designers and developers. A production worker must also be able to think critically and troubleshoot problems that arise on projects. Guess what web designers and developers do every day? Web developers solve problems and build web sites that are far less complex than any car I have ever driven. 

One of the biggest complaints I hear all the time from friends who own tech companies is the issue of work ethic and dependability. Being dependable, a good team player and able to communicate well is critical to project success in both industries. Also, demonstrating a willingness and ability to be cross-trained in different job tasks at your company is an enormous asset in the web industry. And perhaps most importantly, both auto production and web design and development require a technical aptitude. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and as new technologies replace old ones, employees who learn the emerging ones will be extremely valuable to their companies and the web industry. 

As you think about “re-careering,” don’t discount the other skills you bring to the table, including pride in work, product knowledge, integrity, dependability, initiative, persistence, leadership, adaptability, empathy and self-discipline. These are the attitudes that companies look for when hiring designers and developers to help them succeed on the web. Put simply, a career transition from manufacturing and production to web design and development is a natural one.  

A Career in Web Design and Development

Broadly speaking, web designers and developers work with clients to market products and services online. Designers utilize text, images and video to create websites and reach intended audiences, and developers write the code that provides the technical foundation of these websites,  It is a fast-growing STEM career path that offers a median salary of $73K and up to $150K per year, offering flexible and fun careers to those who don’t want to report to an office every day. Many designers and developers enjoy being independent and contracting their services to small and large companies while working remotely. Others are employed full time and use their skills to help their company grow and succeed. Most designers and developers have both design and coding skills, allowing them to better help their clients succeed and meet business goals.

A Flexible Career

Web design and development is one of the growing STEM careers that offers unparalleled flexibility and opportunities to work on impactful projects, and many designers and developers aren’t required to commute to an office each day. According to research, 30 percent of the U.S. working population currently freelances in some capacity, and that will grow to 51 percent by 2020. Web designers and developers often can have just as much of an impact working remotely as from an office. Additionally, web design and development serve as the foundation of many of the technologies we rely on today. It is a stable career that isn’t going to disappear overnight, which makes it a safe bet for those seeking to get started in a brand new career. 

The First Step to Getting Started

To get started in the industry, you will need to gain design and development skills. The good news is that you do not need a traditional college degree to enter the field. Employers value candidates who have industry certifications and a project portfolio—so it is important to find courseware that will prepare you in both of these areas. I am partial to online courses that allow you to play around and “sandbox” your practice work, as I believe they are a great way for learning at your own speed. For tools, all you need is a browser and text editor. Avoid courses that teach specific applications like Adobe Dreamweaver and WordPress—in my experience, companies want people who don’t rely on a specific tool. Learn the basics first.

In the course style I am suggesting, you will learn by building real projects and creating a digital resume that will showcase your skills to potential employers. This is important to demonstrate your technical aptitude and ability to successfully develop and guide a project from beginning to end. You can also gain in-demand industry certifications to prove to companies you have a comprehensive skill set and are ready to produce for them on day one. Side note: it’s wise to avoid industry certifications from testing companies and instead seek a less biased source, like professional associations, as they are more interested in measuring technical aptitude and proficiency. It just makes sense that companies will place a higher value on more meaningful certifications backed by a professional organization, like WebProfessionals.org, than from another testing company. Always consider the source of the certification—your next employer certainly will.   

To be completely transparent, I am not a professional career coach or workforce counselor. However, I am an employer who has worked with people who came to me after working in other industries. These employees have transferable skills and successfully transitioned to the world of web design and development. Recently, we had 26 people working on a project, and most of the members of the web team had spent time in other industries before switching to web development. I have also had the pleasure of witnessing adults retraining from the inside in my duties as an adjunct instructor for adult education design and development courses.

A Career in Web Design and Development is Possible  

Be proud of what you have done and learned in manufacturing: through valuable experience, you have gained many valuable and transferable skills. You learned how to take responsibility, solve problems, work in teams, develop technical aptitude, cross-train in other disciplines and more. You can take this experience and build on it to enter the exciting and rapidly expanding world of web design and development. Contact WebProfessionals.org today for more information on how to begin your path to an exciting new career.

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