Marco Martell’s score on a military placement test qualified him to work in communication systems — an electronics-heavy field — and nudged him toward a booming job option.
“I’ve always had a little bit of an interest in electronics and electrical work,” Martell says. “It just kind of cascaded into this field, and it’s what worked best for me.”
After military service, Martell leveraged his hands-on expertise to enter a wide-open career field: industrial maintenance. Far from mopping floors and emptying garbage cans, industrial maintenance is increasingly high-tech and skills-based. These professionals learn to operate the systems that run large operations like hospitals and factories and manage the equipment that keeps them going. From running HVAC and lighting systems to machinery repair and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), industrial technicians need a range of modern skills in automation and robotics to run today’s operations.
What’s more, local technical colleges boast 100 percent placement rates for industrial maintenance graduates. Employers clamor to fill these positions as their businesses grow. In addition, retirements and a low supply of skilled workers are leaving a swath of positions open.
Madison Area Technical College estimates that in 2016, there were nearly 7,500 jobs related to industrial maintenance in its district, which includes Columbia, Dane, Jefferson, Marquette and Sauk counties and portions of Adams, Dodge, Green, Iowa, Juneau, Richland and Rock counties. It’s estimated that there will be another 225 jobs in the field by 2020, according to MATC data. But some 25 percent of the industrial maintenance workforce in those positions are likely to retire in the next five years, adding another nearly 2,000 openings in the field, the data show.