5 myths about industrial work: what it’s really like to work in the industrial sector

You may be considering a job in the industrial sector, but you’re nervous. You’ve heard lots of conflicting stories about what it’s like, so many that you hesitate to hit ‘send’ on your job application. We’d like to put your mind at ease and clear up those misconceptions so, you’ll be able to make an informed decision. Many people think they know what industrial work involves. Yet, there’s a lot more to the sector than you think.

myths about working an industrial job

the myth: shift work wreaks havoc on your life

Shift work is a pain. Your work schedule is all over the place. You never know how many hours you’re going to get. One week you could get 40 hours, the next week 10. One week you might be working all nights, the next week it’s all afternoons. Let’s not even get started about working weekends. It’s a mixed bag and you never know what your next paycheque is going to look like or when you’ll be working.

the reality: industrial work is more flexible than you think

Not all industrial work is shift-based, and it’s absolutely possible to find roles that have more steady shifts. If the steady paycheque that comes with a 40-hour week is important to you, there are plenty of industrial jobs that guarantee a full-time schedule, and have opportunities for time-and-a-half overtime pay. If you’re willing to work an unusual shift, you might be able to increase your income, as well. Companies often pay a premium for hard to fill shifts like afternoons or evenings.

You can also pick and choose roles that offer shifts that fit your lifestyle. If establishing a work-life balance is on your must-have list, an industrial job may be just the way to get it. There are roles that offer real flexibility. Want to cut daycare costs but your partner works full time? Maybe an afternoon shift is the answer.  Select a shift that takes advantage of your love of early mornings so you can be home when your kids get off the school bus. Or use that time to take the university credits you’ve always wanted to accumulate.

the myth: industrial work is dangerous

Industrial jobs are inherently more risky than other jobs. There are just so many safety concerns with all the heavy machinery and hazards. To make matters worse employers don’t seem to care if anyone gets hurt; why else would so many people continue to be hurt? You hear so many stories about injuries. It’s just not safe. 

the reality: employers take pains to keep you safe

Yes, some industries have inherent risks, like materials, chemicals and machinery that may be hazardous if not used correctly. However, employers put a lot of emphasis on employee safety and procedures reflect this. Accidents are not only tragic, they’re also costly and irreversibly damage the responsible employer’s reputation. Trust us when we say employers have many, many reasons to ensure you’re as safe as possible when working for them.

If you’re playing by the rule book, following all the correct processes and procedures, and wearing all the proper safety equipment, the risks in most industrial jobs are marginal. More and more frequently, jobs that pose potential risks are being replaced by technology because organizations put safety first. Employers are also required by law to set out workplace safety processes and ensure the most current training procedures are in place. You’ll be required to undergo frequent testing, procedural reviews and training to update your skills, to ensure you’re safe in your workplace. If you ever feel your safety is being put at risk, there are reporting procedures in place. You absolutely do not have to ‘live with’ an unsafe workplace, no matter what industry you work in.

the myth: industrial work is a dead-end job

Once you’re in an industrial job, that’s it. You’re stuck for life, doing the same old tasks day in and day out forever. There’s nowhere to advance, and you don’t gain any transferrable skills that’ll help you find higher paying jobs in other sectors.

the reality: the industrial sector has jobs at all levels

There’s nowhere to go but up in the industrial sector, especially for someone who’s looking to advance and grow their career. If you’re struggling to find work and start your career in Canada, industrial work is a great starting point. Yes, you may start at an entry level, but there are roles and opportunities for advancement that will see you grow your skills and capabilities.

Industrial workers often get wage increases over time, as well as access to higher-paying opportunities in supervisory and management roles. Just like any sector, there’s an entire chain of command in the industrial sector, and you can move up it, even if you start at the bottom. If you’re ambitious, there are many jobs in the industrial chain you can work up to. This is particularly true as technology plays a greater role in manufacturing and industry, changing existing roles and creating new ones. Make it a priority to know the tech you work with on a daily basis inside and out (i.e. forklift operation, CNC machinery, automated systems) and you’ll be the obvious choice for a promotion. 

the myth: industrial jobs are the first to be cut

When hard times come, industrial jobs are the first to be cut. Any downturn in the economy means industrial jobs are at risk. And that’s not even considering automation and the impact of technology. Industrial workers are always the first to go when employers create some new piece of technology that does their job. 

the reality: industrial jobs are here to stay

The industrial sector has changed dramatically over the years and continues to do so. The world of work has gone through countless shifts over the decades (and centuries, for that matter) and yet industrial work persists.

Jobs in the industrial sector have changed with the introduction of new technology, but they haven’t disappeared and won’t any time soon. Technology has a long way to go before it can replace humans entirely. Our ability to use a wide range of fine motor skills and our intelligence aren’t going to be replaced by machines any time soon. Machines are good at performing a single repetitive task, unlike humans which can complete many tasks and seamlessly switch gears from one second to the next.

The economy isn’t going to kill industrial jobs either. All sectors undergo ups and downs, it’s a natural part of the world order. The industrial sector supports global, national and local economies. While the industry ebbs and flows in the face of political and economic changes, it continues to remain essential.

the myth: you’re one cog in a massive wheel

You’re part of a massive assembly line where workers are just tiny part of a much bigger process. The work is repetitive day in and day out, with very little change or impact. The work is simplistic; you could be replaced by any Joe off the street and no one would notice.

the reality: you’re a part of a team

There’s no denying the industrial workers are a part of a larger machine. However, the same could be said of any job. Unless you’re a solo entrepreneur or contractor, everyone is part of a team, a department, or a company. We all rely on others at work. The same is true in industrial jobs. You’re part of a team, and just like in any job, you’ll get to know and trust your coworkers. When you’re not present, you’re missed and your tasks aren’t as easily replaced as you might think. You have skills and knowledge that make you great at your job, just like in any other sector. You’ve built a rapport, so you work with your coworkers seamlessly. You know the little quirks about your job that can only be gained from experience. Your hard work contributes to your employer’s bottom line and the quality of life of Canadians in tangible ways. It results in results you can point to, touch and take credit for. That’s extremely satisfying, and for many, more so than pushing paper in a white-collar job.

We hope we’ve dispelled some of those rumours that may be keeping you from investigating a career in the industrial sector! Whatever the outcome, you won’t know until you try. Industrial careers are a lot more than dead-end, mindless jobs. Just like any sector, there’s a whole lot of diversity in the types of work available. If you want something a little more hands-on than an office job, industrial work can be rewarding.

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