4 Ways to Attract Millennials to Manufacturing Jobs

With an estimated 2 million manufacturing jobs to go unfilled by the year 2025, manufacturers will need to work harder than ever to recruit talent. As the largest generation, millennials offer the best hope to close the talent gap.

gettyimages-525478058-compressorWhile their numbers and educational levels offer big prospects, their motivations, culture and standards for employment can be a big shift from other generations. Here are 4 ways manufacturers can attract millennials to their workforce.

1. Change the perception about dirty jobs. One of the biggest barriers the manufacturing industry has is the old perception that manufacturing is dark, dirty and dangerous blue-collar work. A survey by Deloitte found that two out of three parents would not encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing due to the perception of little job security and limited career prospects. Through outreach programs, education and efforts such as Annual Manufacturing Day, manufacturers need to present a more millennial-friendly image.

“For those truly exposed to modern-day manufacturing, perceptions do change and, based on that, we will move the needle to better fill the skills gap that challenges so many companies today,” said Michelle Drew Rodriguez, manufacturing leader at Deloitte’s Center for Industry Insights, in a company statement.

2. Demonstrate a high-tech work environment. Raised in the digital age with rapidly advancing technology, millennials expect a work environment to be on the forefront of innovation. Many modern manufacturers have work cultures that are just as innovative and high-tech as companies like Google and Apple.

“For those truly exposed to modern-day manufacturing, perceptions do change and, based on that, we will move the needle to better fill the skills gap that challenges so many companies today.”

Tony Oran, director of training and higher education for Festo Didactic in Eatontown, N.J., told Quality Digest that manufacturers need to think more about cultivating a culture of innovation. The adoption of Industry 4.0 and advanced manufacturing in Germany and Japan can serve as a guide in how a culture of innovation can drive manufacturing growth. Oran also points to GE’s recent  commercials that highlight jobs and innovations in the industry. “In a culture that overvalues ‘cool’ and undervalues useful, manufacturing is getting overshadowed by the promise of innovative tech startups,” says Oran.

3. Develop a strong training program. To close the talent gap with millennials, manufacturers need to develop strong training programs that cultivate talent from the ground up. This calls for more partnerships with trade schools and robust systems to train on the job. Christine LaPalme, vice president of corporate communications and human resources at FLEXcon in Spencer, Mass., told IndustryWeek that the company’s leadership has educated itself and think about how to keep millennials happy and engaged. The company created a 12- to 18-month class where “development associates” rotate through every department in the company to see how it fits together as a whole.

Manufacturers also may need to train their leaders to better manage the millennial population. Millennials need to see the organization as a whole and know that their work makes a difference. Anna Malachias, a millennial manufacturing engineer at Lockheed Martin, says what she likes most is doing work “that matters and motivates me.”

4. Accept their culture. As everyone knows by now, millennials want more than a paycheck. They expect companies to care about the environment, have sustainable business practices and operate ethically. Most importantly, they have high standards for how they expect to be treated by employers. Bill Baker, president and owner of Speed to Excellence, told IndustryWeek that millennials won’t work for or stay at a company when those expectations aren’t being met.

Companies that are popular with millennial workers have things like flex time, casual wear and workout rooms. Baker said the old belief that workers should “put in your time, and then someone will listen to you” doesn’t work anymore. “Their expectations may not be in alignment with companies that have been around for years,” said Baker.


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