kidsAh, the age-old question put to children by adults who often don’t know what else to ask: “What do you want to be when you grow up, (insert name here)?” Most kids spout off the usual. They all either want to be veterinarians or POTUS—or in the case of my daughter—a mommy, a doctor, and an apple farmer (multi-tasking runs in the family).

This subject came up again last weekend though as I was driving my teenager to his freshman college orientation. Although only in tenth grade, he is lucky enough to be eligible for an early college program, which means he will—if all goes according to plan (ahem!) graduate from high school, and simultaneously, with an associates degree too. This is quite an honor and a privilege, and as we drove to the orientation, I was giving a long parental lecture about what a gift this program is and how my son was so lucky because he would have an enormous headstart on a career right out of the gate.

His response to my enthusiasm, as career choices for him rolled around in my head: “Yes, that’ll be great. So after high school, I think I’ll write a book!”

makerbot-starter-labWhile being very supportive of his intentions to write a book, inside I was screaming engineer! Be an engineer! Many children may be tired of hearing this, as it’s the cry heard from parents around the world. But the experts are with us. They may have taken a little while to come around to the idea, but specifically, being experienced in 3D printing is something that is now beginning to set graduates apart too. And no, not so they can pump out plastic keychains and purple sporks—but so that yes, they really can change the world. It’s already happening. Think bioprinting. Rockets with 3D printed thrusters headed deep into space. How about off-the-grid 3D printed homes and matching cars? Imagine working to offer third world countries self-sustainability with medical and diagnostic devices, water filtering devices, and construction technology.

According to recent information reported by the BBC, experts say we are headed for a boom in 3D printing, citing estimates that the market will top $16.2 billion in 2019. While you may already consider it to be booming just by the amount of press the technology is receiving, the idea is that those graduating with the skillsets currently are going to be melding with the initial need within industry. The timing will come together perfectly with large companies finally being convinced to turn to 3D printing. And as many guidance and career counselors in schools will be explaining to masses of graduates, companies are looking for:

  • Industrial engineers
  • Mechanical engineers
  • Software developers
  • Commercial and industrial designers
  • Marketing managers

The industry continues to grow at an accelerated rate—and prices on printers continue to come down, meaning accessibility, and more innovation. Admitting that it’s true 3D printing is still a very specialized skillset, Nima Mirpourian, a branch manager at Toronto’s Robert Half Technology (specializing in IT staffing) expects that to change fairly soon.

“We’re starting to hear rumblings about the hiring pickup in 3D printing,” he says, adding that nearly anyone who is experienced in the technology should be able to find a job, and in almost any area.

An entire industry will be revolving around it as well, considering that many with expertise to develop software and other technology for 3D printing will be in need, not to mention those capable of selling them, fixing them—and teaching companies how to use them. People will be called upon to operate the equipment and to pump out prototypes when necessary. While making prototypes will be key, 3D printing will be used mainly to fabricate short batch runs, as well as making tools and a variety of finished goods.

“Experience trumps all,” said Mirpourian. “This is a disruptor in the marketplace and because of that, these skills, especially on the development and design side, are super relevant.”

obamaAs the technology becomes more affordable and accessible, it will break out further into the mainstream, although we commonly already write stories regarding cases like the Navy’s use of 3D printing as well as the government’s uses for it—not to mention establishing the STEM agenda which is, undeniably, infiltrating schools with incredibly positive effects.

Experts project that progress will continue in the areas we see offering such impressive innovation right now—in medical, aeronautics, automotive, and far more. With all of the benefits offered by 3D printing, most companies with vision and an eye on their numbers are making way for this technological change that is already beginning to re-shape numerous sectors. What are your thoughts on this topic? Discuss in the 3D Printing Skills and Job Market forum over at 3DPB.com.

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