Can New Talent Save Manufacturing?

The decline of manufacturing has devastated many towns across the United States. Factories that fueled local economies and provided good job opportunities for residents have closed or moved, creating a ripple effect felt not only by laid off workers themselves but also by other area businesses and employees. However, all is not lost for manufacturing. According to a survey of  1,200 manufacturers conducted by ThomasNet, more than half grew in 2012 and even more expect to grow in 2013.

Unfortunately, despite promising outlooks, manufacturers aren’t seeking out essential new talent needed to drive innovation. The survey found that younger workers (Generation Y) make up a small percentage of the manufacturing workforce. With this generation expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, manufacturers need to implement succession plans in order to keep up their momentum.

“As a foundation of our economy, the manufacturing sector remains vibrant, but cracks are coming to the surface. Changes in the workforce demographics and old attitudes about manufacturing as a career threaten the industry’s expansion. It’s time for those who love American manufacturing to double their efforts to engage the next generation,” said Eileen Markowitz, President of ThomasNet.

So what’s keeping younger workers away from manufacturing? According to the manufacturing employers surveyed, it’s negative perceptions about the industry. Despite many innovation opportunities and improved technologies, the positive aspects of manufacturing may have been overshadowed with fears of declining employment opportunities and job security.

To combat declining interest in manufacturing, some manufacturers have partnered with high schools to help increase students’ technological skills and interest in manufacturing. One survey respondent hopes that tomorrow’s workforce can see manufacturing as “a job that changes every day, but can last a lifetime.”

Although manufacturers are confident about the industry’s outlook, should young workers feel optimistic about pursuing a career in manufacturing? According to several reports, including this article from CNNMoney, workers with certain skills sets are in very high demand. The key to landing a good job in the manufacturing sector is possessing the skills that drive innovation and growth.

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