October 01 2015

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Not Your Grandfather's Industry: Manufacturing and Millennials

By: Morgan Williams, Marketing/Graphic Design Asssitant

Over the past few decades, the American perception of manufacturing has diminished. Factories have been closed, workers laid-off and ‘American Made’ products have begun to disappear from store shelves. However, the U.S. manufacturing industry is turning up, showing signs of growth and an increase in open jobs. Common misconceptions of manufacturing jobs are being addressed in an effort to combat challenges and educate future generations.

National Manufacturing Day is celebrated across the country to address these common misconceptions about manufacturing and amplify the voice of professionals within this industry. Manufacturers have an opportunity to open their doors, promote job opportunities and show the public what their industry is all about. For example, did you know that over 70% of Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong economy; manufacturers have the highest job tenure in the private sector; and the average salary of manufacturing workers is more than $77,000?1

Many of today’s factory jobs involve operating, maintaining, and programming the machinery that has taken the place of manual labor. These jobs are highly skilled and often require some type of education or technical degree. However, interest in this field is dwindling and American manufacturing companies could face a deficit of as many as 2 million workers over the next decade.2

Although companies within the manufacturing industry work hard to develop their employees, in order to keep up with demand and future growth, they must recruit faster, smarter, and harder – targeting the next generation of workers. According to a recent analysis of the U.S. Census, “more than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18-34), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce.” These millennials are computer-savvy, multi-taskers, and willing to work together on a team; key traits needed as the manufacturing industry turns to automation.

There is a common misconception that manufacturing jobs will be eliminated due to the growing popularity of warehouse automation, particularly automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) due to their operational efficiencies. While it is true that some jobs may be eliminated due to the nature of these systems, those skilled workers are still needed in other capacities to help their company. With the Millennial workforce increasing, and the high-tech functionality automation provides, there are numerous opportunities for workforce growth, development and education within the manufacturing industry. By working together, we can begin to address the skilled labor shortage, connect with future generations, manipulate the public image of manufacturing, and ensure ongoing success. In the end, the right automation technology paired with the right workers will position companies for success and uphold their staying power in a competitive marketplace.

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1 National Manufacturing Day
2 The Manufacturing Institute