Manufacturing Industry for Millennials

Manufacturing industry is one of the most important sectors for the US economy, this industry contributes $ 1.40 for every $ 1 spent – it is the highest multiplier above the other sectors, according to the National Producers Association – but the industry has a major image problem. Despite having experienced a large increase since the decline of the national economy a few years ago, it has one of the biggest skills gaps in any industry.

Since the downturn in the manufacturing industry last decade, there has been a huge upswing. Re-shoring US operations, introducing new manufacturing technology, and a growing demand for products and services rooted in manufacturing have all meant a major increase in workforce needs. But that demand simply isn’t being met.

The cold truth is that there’s a reported 3.5 million manufacturing jobs to be filled over the next decade, but according to studies, a massive 2 million of those will remain empty as talent only gets harder to find. Why the gap? Chief among the handful of contributing factors is the retirement of Baby Boomers. Some studies show that a massive 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring each day, presenting many companies with a major workforce gap.

This challenge only gets greater when you consider that Millennials simply aren’t motivated to fill those positions that Baby Boomers are leaving open. A recent Deloitte survey shows that Millennials rank manufacturing as their least favorite career path; a huge 61% view it as dirty and dangerous. Very few parents encourage their children to start learning the skills needs to fill the gap, even though the average salary for skilled manufacturing positions is well above the national average, at $79,553.

The aforementioned Deloitte study reports that 52% of teenagers aren’t interesting in pursuing manufacturing as a career. So how do we change their minds and attract them to the industry to fill that growing manufacturing skills gap?

The reality is, of course, that there’s no easy overnight solution. For example, skilled manufacturing wages are already high, so increased salary by itself isn’t going to attract Millennials to the manufacturing industry.

Instead, many experts believe it’s going to take a focused effort that combines both a renewed educational infrastructure focused on STEM skills and renewed employer branding on the part of individual manufacturing companies. Additionally, the industry as a whole has seen an increase in associations and publications that can assist in driving these initiatives.

Let’s look more deeply at the education factor. Over the years, many unskilled or semi-skilled manufacturing positions have been automated while an influx of high-tech tools, like 3D printing, advanced analytics and robotics, have been implemented. This means the highest demand in manufacturing employment is in the skills that can be taught in post-secondary institutions, and in some cases even high school. Therefore, partnering with high schools, community colleges and other local schools to get students excited about the future of manufacturing should be a solid strategy in attracting Millennials to the manufacturing industry and proving that it’s a viable career path.

The employer of branding is equally important. Many millennials don’t look for “just another job” to pay bills and work towards retirement. They want opportunities for personal development, to make decisions that impact, and to make a difference in the world in which they live. It sounds like a big question, but in the world of manufacturing, there are many career paths that can fulfill this desire. So, the most important part of this equation is to make sure these young adults know what careers can offer in the manufacturing industry. That’s where the employer’s branding appears.