Manufacturing is stuck in a tough predicament. It’s one of the most important sectors to the US economy, contributing $1.40 for every $1 spent – that’s the highest multiplier over any other sector, according to the National Association of Manufacturers – but the industry has a major image problem. Although it’s experiencing a major upswing since the national economic downturn several years ago, it has one of the largest skills gaps of any industry. The biggest challenge? Attracting Millennials to the manufacturing industry.
The Manufacturing Skills Gap
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.
Attracting Millennials to the Manufacturing Industry
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.
Employer branding is equally important. Many Millennials aren’t looking for “just another job” to pay the bills and work towards retirement. They want an opportunity for personal development, to make impactful decisions, and to make a difference in the world they live in. That sounds like a big ask, but in the manufacturing world, there are plenty of career paths that can fulfill these desires. The vital part of the equation, then, is to make sure these young adults know what a career in the manufacturing industry can offer. That’s where employer branding comes in.
It’s going to take a collaborative approach and close communication between marketing, HR and director-level management to nail down strong campaigns that align with an organization’s business drivers and hiring initiatives. Millennials are often looking for a team-oriented work environment with a high priority on collaboration and innovation. If that’s something your company can deliver, you should be yelling it from the mountaintops. Manufacturers need a fresh new look when it comes to branding, and this is the only way to capture the attention of the Millennials they so badly need.
Getting the Help of a Manufacturing Recruiting Firm
The National Association of Manufacturers reports that manufacturing workers are working 2.5 times harder than they were three decades ago. That’s huge growth, but when vacancies are sitting open due to a lack of Millennial talent, that represents a massive loss in production. Plus, it takes an average of 70 days to fill those vacancies – more than two months of lost production. If these statistics are all too real to you, then you need to turn to JDP Search for help. We work closely with clients to attract the right talent. We can’t wait to learn more about your needs.