Thursday, July 26, 2012

Green Jobs Series: Careers in Electric Vehicles [Installment Three]

Manufacturing jobs in the electric vehicle industry include various assemblers, machine tool operators, machinists, and industrial production managers. Many of the occupations involved in manufacturing electric vehicles are also involved in the manufacture of vehicle charging stations, which are necessary for most types of plug-in hybrid vehicles and all types of battery-electric vehicles. This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series describes some of the most common jobs in manufacturing.

Occupations in Manufacturing

Manufacturing workers usually work in large automotive assembly plants. These plants are usually quite noisy because they are filled with robotic devices, powerful machines, and hydraulic lifts. Safety conditions in assembly plants have improved considerably over the past several decades. However, manufacturing workers might use machinery or chemicals that require special handling.

Job Duties

Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers build products such as electric motors, computers, electronic control devices, and sensing equipment. Some of these components may be too small or fragile for human assembly, so they are assembled by automated systems. Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers fit together the parts of larger components or controlling automated systems that are used for smaller pieces.

Electromechanical equipment assemblers use a variety of tools to build and assemble electromechanical components used in electric vehicles, such as gasoline engines, electric motors, and generators.

Engine and other machine assemblers construct and assemble engines used in automobiles. They put together the gasoline-powered engines that are present in hybrid cars and may be responsible for other components as well.

Team assemblers work on a variety of manufacturing tasks. They may work on a traditional assembly line or in a so-called “lean” manufacturing system, in which they may rotate between several different types of assembly work. These workers are usually on a team that completes the final assembly of a vehicle.

Computer-controlled machine tool operators use machines to fabricate metal and plastic components of vehicles. To set up the machine for certain operations, they download a program and fix the appropriate tools into the machine. After positioning the piece that is being worked on, computer-controlled machine tool operators start the machine.

Machinists use machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts. Producing large quantities of a single part may be partially or fully automated, and machinists are responsible for monitoring the machines and the quality of the output. Machinists are also responsible for producing small batches or making one-of-a-kind parts for prototypes or testing. If many more pieces are needed, they are often mass-produced using computer-controlled machines.

Industrial production managers plan, direct, and coordinate the production activities required to manufacture vehicles and vehicle components. Depending on the size of a manufacturing plant, industrial production managers may oversee the entire plant or just one area of it.

Education and Training

Manufacturing workers have a variety of skill levels. Most assembly positions require short-term on-the-job training to familiarize workers with production processes and with any equipment they use. Experienced assemblers may be promoted to supervisory positions after several years of working on the assembly line.

Computer-controlled machine tool operators are usually trained on the job. Machinists require more training, and they often learn their trade through an apprenticeship that lasts 3 to 5 years. Industrial production managers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree, typically in an engineering discipline, such as mechanical or industrial engineering, and several years of experience working in the automobile manufacturing industry.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have wage data specific to the electric vehicle industry. The table shows wages for selected manufacturing occupations in the transportation equipment manufacturing industry group for May 2010. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers $29,470
Electromechanical equipment assemblers $32,430
Engine and other machine assemblers $47,440
Team assemblers $32,500
Computer-controlled machine tool operators, metal and plastic $35,580
Machinists $40,810
Industrial production managers $91,460

For more detailed information on manufacturing occupations in the electric vehicle industry, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Next Wednesday's electric vehicle industry series installment: Occupations in Electric Vehicle Maintenance

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