Will Anything Convince Gen Y to Pursue Manufacturing Careers?

Sept. 15, 2011
One twenty-something offers insights from the younger side of the recruitment dilemma

A recent report on the Deloitte Public Viewpoint on Manufacturing found that only 17 percent of surveyed individuals would consider starting a career in manufacturing. As a 23 year old firmly rooted in Gen Y culture, that statistic didn’t really shock me. I know few people my age that list manufacturing amongst their career dreams. Personally, I never considered pursuing a career in manufacturing either.

I never thought I’d be remotely involved in manufacturing. However, shortly after graduating I got a job with Software Advice, a research firm that reviews manufacturing software, such as MRP system applications. Today, I find myself reporting on the manufacturing industry and various related technologies - but it’s a far cry from a career in manufacturing.

I never gave much thought to the consequences of having so few young people pursuing a career in manufacturing. That’s changed since I’ve gained a better understanding of the role and significance of manufacturing in the broader economy. I think we need to get Gen Y - and the generation that follows it - interested in manufacturing again. I sketched out a few ideas I think can help make it happen.

My generation is one that’s obsessed with being “cool,” and it strikes me that a career in manufacturing doesn’t seem cool. This is one of the major barriers we’ll need to overcome to pique the interest of our youth. Here are a few other ideas I have to address this issue:

Introduce Manufacturing in a Fun Setting. I never went to a summer camp as a kid, but I worked at one as a teenager. For counselors and campers alike, it’s a life-changing experience. You learn, grow, and engage in activities together. It’s is a perfect setting to introduce manufacturing principles to young people. My favorite example of this is Gadget Camp. At this camp, kids are required to build a product from concept to creation, using CAD technology. This introduces young people to manufacturing in an entirely different way than the career is usually presented.

Bring Back Technical Education. Technical education, such as shop classes, used to be a major part of most high school curricula. From my understanding, most male students were required to take at least one technical training course. Getting this kind of training didn’t mean that students were pigeonholed into that career, but it let them know that it was an option. I think that technical training would help more youth become familiar with building with their hands. By extension, they’d be more likely to consider a manufacturing career.

Turn Manufacturing Training into a Game. We are one of the first generations that grew up being hyper-connected. We have instant access to the Internet and a wealth of entertaining video games. Many young people strongly prefer playing a video game on the couch to learning about, let’s say, lean manufacturing principles. One way to get over this barrier is to turn manufacturing education and training into a game itself. One of the most interesting examples that I’ve seen is Plantville, which Siemens recently released. It’s like Farmville with manufacturing principles and technologies built into it.

These are a few ways that I think we can get young people to consider manufacturing as a career once more. What do you think it will take? Read How Manufacturing Can Attract Young Talent Again, and let me know. Alternatively, you can ping me @ERPAdvice.

Derek Singleton writes about various topics related to ERP, with particular interest in the manufacturing and distribution software markets at Software Advice, a blog that helps buyers locate the best software for their business. Follow him on Twitter at @ERPAdvice, or email Derek at [email protected]

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