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Hey there, Troubleshooters! We’re glad you could join us again. If you missed it, check out last week’s post on the true cost of your factory downtime. It’s an eye-opener! Fortunately, knowledge is power, so be sure to read how you can assess the full effect of downtime on your productivity, and then take control.

Today, we want to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room—namely, the need for transforming manufacturing’s image when it comes to attracting new employees. 

You and I know that the manufacturing industry provides a wide range of stimulating, challenging, and fulfilling jobs. The problem is, young people entering the workforce don’t share this perception. In fact, surveys show that people looking to enter the labor force think of manufacturing jobs as dirty, boring, low-tech, and unglamorous. They just can’t get excited about them. In a labor shortage like the one happening now, that’s bad news for manufacturers trying to build and grow their workforce.

The surprising numbers

A Minnesota-based survey of 1000 young (18 – 40) people found:

  • 44% simply would not consider a career in manufacturing
  • 30% viewed manufacturing negatively 
  • 50% believe the manufacturing industry will struggle from an aging workforce
  • 50% believe automation will replace human jobs
  • 42% feel manufacturers need to prove long-term job security

Reasons participants gave for not being interested in manufacturing career included:

  • “Is not a place I feel I could have a long-term career”
  • “Does not offer a work culture that I like/identify with”
  • “Does not provide employees with rewarding/fulfilling work” 
  • “Does not offer competitive compensation and benefits” 
  • “Is not socially conscious or solving problems to better the world” 

The survey aligns with a TST post from a couple of weeks ago, where we saw that Millennials are the most-educated generation in history, and typically want white collar jobs over skilled trades, in a company where they are inspired by the corporate culture. 

Yet another issue to be aware of is that Millennials and younger workers are love technology and aspire to work in high-tech fields, and they don’t associate manufacturing jobs with tech.  

The high-tech Catch 22

If you think the misconception that manufacturing jobs are low-tech can be easily fixed by just pointing to the latest smart factory (or “brilliant factory”!), you may be right. But you might just be swapping one hurdle for another. Once they understand that manufacturing processes are becoming highly automated with technologically sophisticated machines, robots, and cobots, young people have a new fear—that if they choose a career in manufacturing, their jobs will soon be taken over by machines. That’s the high-tech Catch 22 that manufacturers currently face: young workers are put off by manufacturing’s low-tech image, but if you convince them it is high-tech, they worry about robots stealing their jobs.

Rehabbing manufacturing’s image

Obviously, manufacturers need to rehabilitate their currently unappealing image, and simultaneously calm next-gen worker jitters about job insecurity. Join us next week on TST as we talk about the steps manufacturers need to take to combat the idea that the new wave of automation in the industry will make humans redundant.

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