Manufacturing and Millennials - Are They Ready for Each Other?


There have been plenty of articles written about the changes that the Millennial generation (loosely defined as anyone born between 1982 and 2004) will bring to the nation’s workforce. One large segment of that workforce that’s been largely left unaddressed in these conversations, however, is U.S. Manufacturing.

In recent years, innovation is what has differentiated the U.S. in the global marketplace. This means manufacturing employers in the coming years will continue to look for employees who can find new ways to do things. Innovation, after all, is what is helping to spur the ‘reshoring’ movement in the U.S., especially innovation that leads to more efficient production and higher quality finished products.

Millennials, who are often referred to as digital natives because they have been born and raised using modern technology from a very early age, make a great choice for employers. This level of comfort with technology has made the group adaptable to accepting newer technologies and integrating them into their daily lives.

So why the seeming shortage of companies that are actively recruiting these young, tech savvy workers?

The answer isn’t simple. Several factors, not all of which can be controlled by any single agency, are at play in the current scenario. Millennials, who have been told from the outset that a four-year college education is the only way to find success, are frequently left unaware of the opportunities available to them to create a successful career in the industry. Likewise many Millennials have an out-of-date understanding of what manufacturing jobs are. They view manufacturing as low pay, low skill work that will provide little in the way of ongoing stimulation and enjoyment. In fact, many modern manufacturing jobs often include a high level of skill, with plenty of middle-level positions to allow room for advancement. The Manufacturing industry can be an excellent opportunity for students looking for a challenging career.

Some of these benefits include:

  • Strong wages & benefits that support families on a regular work schedule
  • Working directly with machine technology
  • Opportunities and encouragement for advancement
  • On the job learning
  • Creating a finished product through hands on processes 

Manufacturing employers, on the same hand, should recruit younger employees to begin learning the ropes, and to help these younger employees benefit from the wealth of knowledge today’s current workers have gained in their own careers. Millennials’ differ in some ways than the generations before them, focusing greater emphasis on creativity, collaboration, and learning through peer relationships than generations before them. This places greater emphasis than ever before, perhaps, on the need for apprenticeship or other mentorship opportunities,

So what can we do to start connecting these dots between Millennials and the manufacturing industry?

  1. Partnering with Education Leaders to help spread the truth about Manufacturing careers and create programs that help students prepare for these skills.
  2. Creating internships, apprenticeships, and other peer mentoring opportunities to help connect and spread knowledge from today’s workforce to Millennial employees.

Because the truth is….

  • Manufacturing today often involves highly complex, specialized work.
  • Many intermediate opportunities exist, so continued growth can be realized, even within the same company.
  • Strong, cohesive team environment and opportunities for interesting work are key.
  • Culture is hugely important.
  • Recreational and team building opportunities must exist.

Return To Our Blog