Assemblers and fabricators are professionals who are involved in manufacturing. Assemblers work to put together the pieces of products, the put the pieces together to form the final product. Fabricators create the pieces used to created these products. Using machines, tools or their hands, they carefully cut and create the pieces. These two types of workers manufacture everything from children’s toys to household appliances. In 2008, over 2.0 million jobs in the United States were held by fabricators and assemblers.
The wages earned by fabricators and assemblers varies between their location, skill level, industry, educational level and the type of machines they operate; some are more dangerous and yield a higher pay rate. From statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2008, these professionals earned an average wage of $12.32 per hour. Of the group reviewed, the middle 50% earned between $9.75 and $15.60. The 10th percentile earned less than $8.20 and the 90th percentile earned more than $19.69 per hour.*
The average wages of electrical and electronic equipment assemblers in May of 2008 were $13.22, according to the BLS. Wages between $10.52 and $16.85 were earned by the middle 50%, while the 10th percentile earned less than $8.77 and the 90th percentile earned more than $21.15. Most jobs for these professionals were held in the field of navigation, measuring, electromedical and control instrument manufacturing, followed by electrical equipment manufacturing, electrical component manufacturing, semiconductor or other electronic component manufacturing and employment services ranking last. The highest-paying professions were found in aircraft manufacturing plants, followed by engine assembly, structural metal fabrication, electromechanical equipment assembly and timing device assembly.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Fabricators and assemblers must learn many or a few tasks, depending on the job. Line workers are often responsible for only a few small tasks, while workers who are stationed in various places must learn each task of each station. Fabricators learn how to operate both large and small machines. These machines are complex, but they are usually computerized, making them much more user-friendly. The machines are used to measure, cut and create parts and pieces. Some pieces must be sanded or hand-finished after they are cut. Fabricators are also responsible for finishing these pieces.
Assemblers also learn how to use tools and small machines to make pieces and parts fit during assembly. These workers piece together many different things, from simple toys to large and complex machines. Larger projects often have several assemblers working together, while small and simple items are made by line assemblers. When working with a team, good communication, teamwork and a positive attitude are needed to excel. Team workers must work together in an efficient manner to finish the work they are assigned. Some positions with very complex assembly processes pay higher rates, due to the safety risks. Assemblers are not only responsible for learning how to assemble, but also how to spot deformities in parts, how to fix the parts if repair is minor, how to read blueprints and how to identify the source of problems during assembly.
Training and Education Requirements
Most factory positions that do not require very complex details will only require a high school diploma or GED to be considered for employment. Once employed, workers are provided with on-the-job training and instruction, which is also provided in mandatory classes and meetings. Once simple skills are learned and mastered, workers may then advance to a more complex position. After several years of continuing education and training, workers then are eligible for the most complex positions. These positions, which usually involve working in car or aircraft assembly and fabrication, may also be obtained by earning a technical degree. Several different types of degrees are offered by vocational, technical or community colleges. Specialty areas of focus are also available in these degree programs. Usually an Associate or Bachelor degree in a technical field related to assembly and fabrication will afford a worker a good position upon graduation.
Most fabricators and assemblers do not receive a formal certification. These positions are not regulated and certification is usually only given when required by an employer. The majority of certifications are usually found within a company. For example. a factory may have different levels of their own certifications, demonstrating that an employee is able to do certain tasks related only to their work system. Certifications outside of the workplace are found only from the IPC. These are related to soldering and other critical aspects, but usually are only required by companies who are in the aerospace or defense industries.
The most popular professional association for assemblers and fabricators is The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, also called the FMA. With over 2,000 members, this association began in 1970 and continues to grow each year in numbers. Their goal is to improve the industry, safety conditions and work environment for employees. Each year, this association provides its members with valuable information, networking, continuing education and other interesting event updates, such as the International & AWS Welding Show. Membership requires an application and fee, but is well worth the money.