Pamela Kan, President of Bishop-Wisecarver Group
While we clearly enjoy the technological advances of living in the 21st century, many Americans’ thoughts on the manufacturing industry haven’t moved past the Industrial Revolution. Comments about dark, grimy, repetitive, dangerous work conditions persist today, but are far from the reality. Manufacturing in 2017 means technologically advanced machinery, modern buildings, use of robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things, just to name a few.
Perception vs. reality
This perception vs. reality viewpoint is causing short-term and long-term problems for manufacturers. In the 2015 public perception report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, Americans are reluctant to choose careers in manufacturing, and thus, they aren’t encouraging the next generation to pursue these jobs either. This is one reason we have more than two million manufacturing jobs expected to go unfulfilled in the next decade. However, Generation Y respondents with some personal experience or familiarity with manufacturing ranked it as a higher option. This is an important data point showing up repeatedly – when students have some knowledge with manufacturing, their interest in pursuing it as a career rises exponentially.
Programs that work
STEM-related programs at school and through companies are making a difference in introducing students to the realities of manufacturing. These programs, including FIRST Robotics and ASTRA STEAM Summit, take time and commitment from teachers, businesses and mentors, but they are providing numerous proof points of success. In addition, there is national Manufacturing Day, where students and their parents/teachers can come on site to manufacturers around the U.S. to see what we really do. These are just a few of the successful programs where manufacturers can participate.
As part of these programs, we have the opportunity to showcase the benefits of manufacturing that matter to the younger generation: technology, innovation, environmentally friendly and strong salaries and benefits.
Millennials have been raised with technology as part of every aspect of their lives and understanding it plays an important role in manufacturing will help them see this as a more viable career option. From hardware to software and everything in between, the technology advancements in manufacturing are constant and require workers who can keep adapting.
Manufacturing needs great problem solvers who can work to meet current customers’ needs, while also developing new innovations for future concerns. The Deloitte/The Manufacturing Institute report mentioned above, found that 78 percent of millennials said their decision to work at a company was influenced by how innovative they considered the company to be. Manufacturing is all about innovation – it’s what we do all day, every day. This same group said they value opportunities for personal development and a chance to make a difference. Engineers in manufacturing will say they love taking their education and making a difference by creating something new to solve a customer’s problem.
Most students don’t realize that manufacturing companies are looking for ways to innovate and solve problems in new ways, while also saving money, time and the planet. Companies like mine are often conflict-free certified and green certified where we commit to going over and beyond the required to conserve resources, prevent pollution, reduce waste and shrink our carbon footprint.
Manufacturing facts to share
In addition to the reasons above, manufacturing also provides strong salaries, benefits and long-term stability and growth opportunities. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Top 20 Facts list should be shared everywhere. It includes the economic factors that surprise many and help showcase the benefits of working in this industry.
As manufacturers, we must show the next generation (and their parents) the realities that manufacturing is an economic leader providing technologically advanced, environmentally concerned, innovative career choices allowing people to make a difference in their community and world. It will take consistent effort, but the facts and reality are on our side. Let’s communicate, engage and help change the view of manufacturing to the benefit of us all.