With a looming manufacturing skills gap that’s expected to lead to 2 million unfilled jobs, the industry is trying to recruit today’s youth and Millennials. How are they doing it? It turns out inviting students and communities to see what manufacturers actually do is the first step, according to Jennifer McNelly, executive director of The Manufacturing Institute.
Manufacturing has undergone a makeover. Today, manufacturing is modern. It is about adapting to new technological advancements, tackling big issues, and making the world a better place with the creation of products we use every single day.
But manufacturing is facing a serious problem. Over the next decade 3.5 million manufacturing jobs likely need to be filled, and the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs being unfilled. Manufacturing needs people, and reaching the next generation of workers is a top priority for those of us in the industry.
What Millennials may not realize is that modern manufacturing is full of cutting-edge technology. We make lifesaving medicines, we make cool cars, and we are problem solvers on a global scale. National Manufacturing Day helps showcase how manufacturers truly design and build the future. Designated as the first Friday of every October, Manufacturing Day invites students, parents, teachers, and the community into their local manufacturing facilities. Without fail, those same students, parents and teachers leave the day with a changed view of the industry – and we have the data to prove it.
This year, The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte released a perception survey for Manufacturing Day. The survey was distributed to more than 2,700 Manufacturing Day hosts, and the impact was evident. After Manufacturing Day:
- 89 percent of students surveyed were more aware of manufacturing jobs in their communities.
- 90 percent of educators were more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are both interesting and rewarding.
- 89 percent of employers thought there was value in participating in the event.
- 71 percent of students were more likely to tell friends, family, parents or colleagues about manufacturing.
We can see the shift in attitudes surrounding the industry and the excitement that stems from Manufacturing Day. Students, and their influencers, come out with a better understanding of manufacturing and more assured that these jobs are well paid, sustainable and offer unlimited opportunities for advancement. By illustrating the career opportunities available in advanced manufacturing environments, the industry is making positive progress in changing the perception of manufacturing.
While it’s great people are noticing the manufacturing makeover, so much more still needs to be done. Manufacturers need to reach out to their communities and engage their local schools to help attract the next generation of workers into the industry. Manufacturers cannot fix this gap alone. They need all facets of the industry to come together to help build our workforce.
Jennifer McNelly is Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute, the non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers.
All views expressed are those of the author.