By Kevin Kramer, President, Alliance Technical Solutions
It’s no surprise: the manufacturing sector has changed in recent years. Technology is changing. Equipment is evolving. Factories and processes are becoming more modern.
In addition to technology updates, the industry is on the verge of a big comeback in the United States. 700,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs have been added since the end of 2010 and we could see as many as 3.5 million new job openings over the next decade. Manufacturers are optimistic about the future.
The dilemma: Who is going to fill the jobs openings? A report by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute states that U.S. manufacturers could face a shortage of workers (nearly two million!) over the next 10 years, due to baby boomer retirement and economic expansion.
The answer: Attract millennials to manufacturing. This generation (born in the 80s and 90s) is currently the largest generation in the U.S. Unfortunately, milennials don’t want to work in manufacturing.
They’ve been taught that after high school, everyone should get a four year degree and work in a business. The average millennial is unaware of the interesting and potentially high-paying careers manufacturing has to offer.
What can be done? Read on for five ways to attract millennials to manufacturing.
1) Public awareness
Many millennials are not aware of the high-paying and interesting manufacturing jobs out there. There is a misconception that jobs in manufacturing are low-paying grunt work. Many millennials don’t realize how tech-driven the manufacturing industry has become. We must aim to change this perception of the industry and rebrand the manufacturing stereotype. The challenge is not only to open the eyes of potential young workers and students, but also their parents’ who play a major role in encouraging their children’s career choice.
Events such as the annual initiative, Manufacturing Day, help attract millennials to manufacturing and show young people first-hand what today’s manufacturing jobs are like. In 2015, 400,000 participated across the United States.
Leaders in the industry should make it a point to attend job fairs to connect with potential workers and inform them of the modernizations that have been occurring in the industry. Another avenue to consider is to visit schools to present to students about what a potential career in skilled manufacturing could entail. Create a roadmap of the types of careers available to them and teach how the industry has evolved.
2) Education and Training
Take the average apprenticeship model and enhance it! A new trend that helps attract millennials to manufacturing is the paid internship. Some may view this as an added expense but it’s really a great investment into the future of your company. You’re giving back and paying it forward while directly coaching the next generation of employees. You will be providing on-the-job training and real world experience, not to mention paying a smaller amount than for a full-time employee.
There is hope that state and local policy makers will work to rebuild the educational framework that fell by the wayside when the manufacturing industry was struggling.
Some high schools have begun to encourage career and technical education by offering incentives for high school students enrolled in college level technical education classes. For example, paying the tuition, paying for transportation, subsidizing costs of credentialed assessment and offering financial rewards to students graduating with industry-recognized credentials.
3) Creative use of technology
Millennials are a technology focused generation. That’s why rebranding manufacturing as a high-tech industry is so important. Today’s manufacturing relies on cutting edge technology but millennials don’t always make that connection and they seek out other career fields.
According to a 2015 skills gap study by The Manufacturing Institute, 21st century manufacturing is a combination of technologies, ranging from advanced robotics to full integrated production system. People are referring to this as “smart manufacturing” or “Industry 4.0.” Their research shows that more than two-thirds of U.S. manufacturing companies are adopting 3D printing and more than half use robots.
So what can manufacturing companies do to spread the message about Industry 4.0 and attract milennials to manufacturing? Utilize mobile devices, videos and virtual reality to help showcase the technology side and let this next generation know this isn’t their grandfather’s factory!
Make your career portal more than just job postings. Millennials watch videos to learn about new things. Try adding videos to job postings to attract milennials to manufacturing. Showcase what the job looks like and what the company atmosphere is like. Keep videos to 2-3 minutes or less. It is also essential that your career portal is user-friendly and mobile friendly.
Cleveland company Lincoln Electric uses virtual reality to let people test their welding skills at career fairs. This is a great way to screen potential candidates while building interest at your booth. They also use this machine for training employees.
Showcase your company’s technology and millennials will take note.
4) Web and social media presence
You should be using your website for more than just business to business purposes. Your website is a great place to showcase what your company is all about, from what you manufacture to your company culture and mission. Show how your products and services benefit the public. Millennials care about the big picture and many desire a career path where they can make a difference. Use your online presence to demonstrate your innovation and impact on society.
Is your company on Facebook? How about Twitter? LinkedIn? If you are trying to attract millennials to manufacturing, making sure your social media channels are active and up-to-date is a worthwhile task. If a potential young worker is considering your company as their next place of employment, they are going to Google you. A well-groomed, fresh social media presence says a lot about a company’s modernization and builds credibility with younger generations.
Publish content regularly. Post about your products and services, company culture and open jobs. Use this opportunity to connect with the public. Our recommendation is to focus on 2 to 3 social media outlets. If your target audience isn’t spending time on Pinterest or Instagram, don’t focus all of your energy there.
5) Updated management style
Millennials are a connected generation. They value one-on-one communication and feedback. Think about the annual review process. Is meeting once a year really the best way to nurture your employees? Frequent feedback in addition to annual reviews can help your team’s talent grow along the way. Schedule one-on-one meetings more often. Perhaps take a cue from General Electric and experiment with online tools to give feedback when requested. Communicating more often and staying connected will do wonders for performance development.
This generation wants to lead early on. It’s important to consider a work structure that allows for advancement and growth.
Some employers utilize ambassador programs within their companies to attract millennials to manufacturing. For example, young ambassadors can be good representatives to send to college campuses and career fairs to talk about their jobs or by leading shop tours when students and young job seekers visit plants. This can prove beneficial as young people may identify with those closer to their age.
When we can start to change perceptions, we can attract millennials to manufacturing where they will be greeted by rewarding careers. Practice these tips and you will help to update the flawed perception of manufacturing careers and, in turn, attract and retain millennial employees. Doing so will enhance the future of the manufacturing industry and pave the way for the manufacturing resurgence that is on the horizon.