As the next generation chooses a career path, it's good to know that high-paying, fulfilling jobs are available in industry and manufacturing. Although there are many means of launching a successful career in these fields, technical certifications may be the most expedient and economical path to achieve this goal. Students who acquire certifications in high school or after high school have many more opportunities for employment and higher pay than those with only a high-school diploma.

What Is a Certification?

Certifications are portable credentials awarded to individuals once they have proven mastery of a specific set of skills. It is important to ensure that the certificate is accredited, for while non-accredited certification programs may offer a positive experience, it's uncertain how potential employers will view them.

Several accredited technical certifications can be obtained in high school, such as the Certified Production Technician (CPT) certification offered by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC). This certification provides proof to employers that you have acquired mastery of the core competencies for manufacturing production in the areas of safety, quality practices and measurement, manufacturing processes and production, and maintenance awareness.

Additional career-launching certifications include those based on the nine duty areas from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS). These areas cover topics such as maintenance operations, basic mechanical systems, electrical systems and maintenance welding.

Industrial technology maintenance (ITM) needs have also grown rapidly with too few skilled technicians to fill the jobs. So from a hiring perspective, an ITM certification can provide job applicants with the credentials to prove they have the ability to succeed at these quality jobs.

Adding Value to College

Even with a college degree, certifications can add weight to a hiring decision, making workers even more marketable. With a certification, individuals can find a job in manufacturing that can help fund their college studies or create a path to other career advancement.

When most students think of continuing their education beyond high school, many envision pursuing a four-year degree at university or a two-year degree at a community college. These options are a good fit for some, but why work at a low-paying job for years while you finish your degree when a certification can qualify you for a well-paying job and still allow you to work toward your degree? In fact, many certifications can be acquired in as little as six months.

According to Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, there are currently more than 600,000 unfulfilled manufacturing jobs. Unfortunately for employers, the largest generation of skilled workers — the baby boomers — are retiring. As manufacturing increases in the United States, not enough skilled workers will be available. Certification can provide a bridge between college and the necessary hands-on skills.

Successful Certification Training Programs

Certification typically requires knowledge assessments and in some cases skill performances. Training programs can help ensure individuals have acquired the abilities needed to pass the certification exams. These programs, which are typically offered at high schools and community colleges, often feature a highly interactive, engaging curriculum that leads to technical expertise.

In conclusion, professional certifications can provide many opportunities for high-school students, including direct entry into the workforce, a solid foundation for college, confidence and motivation to go further. These certifications should not be viewed as an ending point in a career but rather as a promising beginning.