As the population ages, there is a growing need to replace retiring veteran workers with new employees. In the manufacturing industry alone, SME estimates that there could be up to 3.5 million jobs available in the next ten years. Of these positions, Deloitte reports that with the skills gap, 2.4 million positions could go unfilled between 2018 and 2028. Attracting a new era of workers into manufacturing needs to start when they are young and continue throughout the educational process. 

Manufacturing is seen as an important part of the American economy. Eight in ten people believe it is important to maintain the country’s standard of living. But one-third of Americans say they wouldn’t encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. There are several misperceptions about manufacturing, which is hurting the potential talent pool. 

Starting Them Young

It’s time to modernize how the American manufacturing workforce is developed. It’s also time to change the perceptions of manufacturing as being unsafe, low-skilled, and insecure. When young people and their parents aren’t exposed to the rewarding aspects of manufacturing at an early age, these misconceptions are more likely to persist into high school. Modern manufacturing jobs are safer, high-tech jobs that are well-paid and require more skill and competency. 

Introducing manufacturing at a young age can help to build their interest in the career field. When these young students reach an age where they have to decide their future educational path, having a positive perspective on manufacturing can help. Organizing company “show and tells” and presentations at local elementary and high schools is one way in which a company can expose students to the benefits of a career in manufacturing. 

Hosting Jobs Fairs and Networking Events

High school is a decisive time for many young people, where students determine their future path, whether that means going to community college, a university or heading straight to the job market. Manufacturers can promote their industry and company by hosting job fairs or networking events to help provide students with a clearer picture of career choices available. 

Networking can help students by providing them the opportunity to talk to people in the industry, so they can understand more about the positives of the job. These events also help companies evaluate the talent pool and start recruitment early. 

Also, participating in nationwide events like Manufacturing Day, held this year on October 4th, can be another way companies can promote the manufacturing industry to a younger base. The SME Education Foundation, for example, engages with regional manufacturers, local schools and other community representatives through the Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education initiative, or PRIME. PRIME is used as a platform for manufacturers to reach students and build awareness of the manufacturing career pathways that are available to them. The specially tailored advanced manufacturing education provides students with modern manufacturing skills and prepares them for a future manufacturing job upon high school graduation. There are 47 PRIME schools in 22 states. 

Changing Perceptions of Manufacturing 

With the growing trend of automation and the IoT software, more and more highly skilled workers are needed to maintain and upkeep systems. Automation is creating new types of jobs in manufacturing by phasing out positions that perform repetitive and mundane tasks . It’s also giving rise to the need for highly-trained electrical maintenance professionals. 

The nature of manufacturing is changing and so is the nature of training. For example, serious games are becoming commonplace for training electrical maintenance professionals. Also, new training programs incorporating video game elements in their platforms, such as using 3D simulation, offers a safe, fun, and engaging environment in which a trainee can learn and make risk-free mistakes. Not only can this be an effective and efficient way to train new workers, but it also can be a great onboarding tool to engage new hires. 

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