From automation and the manufacturing hiring landscape from the leaders in simulation training.

Greetings once again, Troubleshooters! Welcome back to TST. Today we’re continuing to discuss how manufacturers need to make the industry more appealing to young workers in order to secure the labor force that they need to grow and thrive. (Check out Part 1 if you missed it; you’ll be surprised to learn how GenZ and Millennials view the manufacturing industry and the kinds of things that really worry them about it.)

Okay, so today we want to talk about concrete steps manufacturers can take to combat one idea many young people entering the workforce have about manufacturing. This is the idea that automation is going to kill their jobs if they choose a career in manufacturing. 

Fear of automation is not new

It’s not an unreasonable idea, and it’s not a new one. In every past industrial revolution, people have been worried about the same thing. In the first Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, workers (known as “Luddites”) were so worried about knitting machines, which could knit 100 times faster than humans, taking over the textile industry that they broke machines and set woolen mills on fire. (But can you imagine living in a world where everything was still knit by hand?)

Today, young people entering the workforce hear about brilliant factories, robots, and cobots. While intrigued by the tech, they are worried that if they commit to a career in manufacturing, they’ll eventually lose their job to a steely competitor that can do the job better, faster, and without ever needing a break. So why even bother?

And that’s the attitude that has to be transformed.

Three things manufacturers can do to calm fear of automation

There are a few things manufacturers need to start doing right away to change the way people think about the effect automation might have on their job.

1. Give them confidence that their job is secure
A survey of 1000 young Minnesotans found that 50% of respondents believe automation will replace human jobs, and 42% feel manufacturers need to prove long-term job security. Presumably, that 42% believes that long-term job security is possible; they just want reasonable reassurance. 

There’s no better way to prove you intend to keep an employee than to invest in them. It demonstrates, beyond anything that a warm, fuzzy pre-boarding speech can do, that you value them enough to spend resources developing them and that you intend to keep them around. 

Skills development is one obvious way to invest in your staff. Oftentimes when technology replaces human jobs, it also creates other jobs that require greater skills. The jobs are still there; they just require some training. For example, automated factories now use sensors embedded in the machinery and environment to measure just about everything you can think of and to provide information in real time to other connected machines. It creates greater efficiencies than when humans had to monitor everything and make those decisions because the sensors relay the data to computers, which make multiple calculations and decisions per second. 

So, there are definitely some human jobs lost there. However, all of those sensors now need to be repaired from time to time, and it must be done by someone with the necessary electrical skills. Training your staff with a simulation-based electrical troubleshooting program for industrial sensors will give them the ability to keep the factory humming along smoothly. At the same time, it will give them a sense of job security because these sensors are not going away any time soon.

If the training programs involve gamification or “serious game” elements, so much the better, because Millennials and Gen Z have grown up on games and learn well with them.

2. Provide clearly defined career advancement opportunities 
A Robert Walters study found that the thing that keeps Millennials most engaged at work is the potential for career progression. It’s also one of the top 3 reasons Millennials change jobs. Young workers today need to see their clear path to success at your organization. If you want to compete for these workers, you will need to demonstrate a plan for their career advancement. If they can see this path, the threat of automation taking away their current job won’t be as scary.

3. Supercharge your recruitment strategy
Early education and awareness of manufacturing careers drives interest in them later on in life. The survey of Minnesotan young workers found that exposure to manufacturing jobs, either through family or through learning about manufacturing in their youth, changed how respondents felt about manufacturing. Sixty-two percent of respondents who had family employed in manufacturing (compared with 56% overall) said they would consider working in the industry, and 65% of respondents who learned about manufacturing in their youth would also consider a job in the industry.

It’s clear that manufacturers need to start connecting with young people wherever they can—at career fairs and schools, on social media, even by hiring recruiting or branding firms. (If you do hire a recruiting firm, make sure they understand your business and culture and take feedback and learn from that to find candidates that are a good fit.) Changing the interview process to appeal more to youth, and updating your website with compelling video content are other ways to increase outreach success. Think creatively to find other opportunities, like the Illinois company ScotForge did when they began collaborating with MBA students from Northern Illinois University to work on solving problems at the plant. It formed a mutually rewarding relationship that introduced students to manufacturing facilities and offered the chance for internships and future jobs.

And that’s a wrap for today, Troubleshooters! Don’t forget to tune in again next week and every Thursday for tips on safe and effective troubleshooting from the leaders in simulation-based training!

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