The manufacturing skills gap is one of the most overlooked threats facing U.S. manufacturers. An estimated 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will become available in the next 10 years – but without the right skilled workers for the jobs, an estimated 2 million of those jobs could go unfulfilled. To meet this challenge, smart manufacturers are incorporating millennials in their recruiting strategy. Here we offer 14 tips to help you succeed.

Millennials and the manufacturing skills gap

One in three workers is a millennial, so millennials are now the largest generation in the US workforce. As the ‘older’ generation retires from the manufacturing workforce, recruiting a new generation becomes a strategic issue for manufacturers. To attract millennials, manufacturers need to re-assess their recruiting and talent strategies. In this post, we provide some ideas to help manufacturers craft their strategy to attract, train and retain millennial workers to their organizations.

According to the Manufacturing Workforce Report by ToolingU, 99% of manufacturers have a hard time finding new hires, and 84% think there is a talent shortage in U.S. manufacturing. Furthermore, 72.9 percent of manufacturing companies surveyed listed recruitment and retention of a workforce as their number one business challenge, and over 30 percent of respondents noted that a shrinking labor pool correlates to lost business opportunities.

In a poll conducted by the Foundation of Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, 52 percent of all teenagers said they have no interest in a manufacturing career. Of the 52 percent who did not have interest in manufacturing, around two-thirds (61 percent) perceived that a manufacturing career entailed a “dirty, dangerous place that requires little thinking or skill from its workers and offers a minimal opportunity for personal growth or career advancement.”

How to recruit millennials to manufacturing jobs

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1. Highlight the benefits of careers in the industry

Manufacturing has a reputation problem. Only 35 percent of Americans say they would encourage their children to pursue careers in manufacturing. Therefore, manufacturers need to proactively highlight the benefits of working in their industry. Luckily, the numbers tell a good story. For example, manufacturing has the highest average wages of private sector industries ($81,289) and the highest tenure for workers (9.7 years). Highlighting these facts and participating in industry initiatives like Manufacturing Day can help dispel the myths around the industry.

2. Leverage digital manufacturing to attract tech-savvy workers

Millennials grew up as digital natives, so they are a tech-savvy generation. As such, they expect their workspace to offer the same level of digital tools they enjoy in their day-to-day life. However, most manufacturing facilities don’t offer access to the interfaces the new generation expects. No wonder 50% of people in this study don’t see manufacturing as an exciting, challenging or engaging profession, and 20% see it as an outdated profession. Adopting the latest digital manufacturing technologies such as AR/VR, manufacturing apps, and others can give manufacturers an opportunity to compete with the appeal of high-tech jobs. Adopting these technologies can help manufacturers actively change the inaccurate perception of an outdated and dirty workplace.

3. Re-assess your recruiting efforts

Where are you posting your job openings? Do you have a good digital strategy for recruiting? How are you ‘selling’ the roles? Experts recommend using short job descriptions, avoiding buzzwords, and focusing on competence rather than years of experience, among other best practices. As you take a closer look, make sure you debunk misperceptions about the industry. Include language that highlights the exciting changes in the industry, the prospects for growth, and the work-life balance of the job, which can set your listing apart for millennials who cite these as a top consideration when evaluating job options.

4. Identify and connect with candidates early

In a world where competition for talent is a strategic issue, it is never too early to connect with potential candidates. Some manufacturers are leveraging events like Manufacturing Day to open their facilities to high-school students and foster an interest in their companies. Others are going a step beyond and establishing internship programs. For example, Rockwell Automation partnered with First Robotics to support “First Lego League” programs for kids in grades four through eight. Some of these kids may end up working at the company down the road.

5. Provide apprenticeship programs

Apprenticeships can help young adults discover what they love to do. Instead of going into five- and six-figure debt in college, apprentices earn money as they learn. At the end of 2015, there were nearly 448,000 registered apprentices in the U.S., and the federal government has announced plans to double that number by 2019. As you craft your strategy for attracting the next generation of workers, think about how you can partner with other institutions to offer local, skills-based apprenticeship programs.

6. Partner with educational institutions to provide training programs

Some manufacturers are sponsoring training programs and maker spaces to teach workers the skills they need. According to this U.S. News article, 72 percent of manufacturing executives cited that involvement with local schools and community colleges is productive for workforce development.

7. Establish a diversity strategy

Forty-seven percent of millennials actively look for diversity and inclusion when sizing up potential employers, according to a survey.  However, manufacturing doesn’t fare too well in this regard. According to Deloitte, even though women totaled about 47 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2016, they make up only 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce. Part of the problem is that 71% of women in manufacturing consider that standards of performance differ for men and women. Manufacturers who want to attract millennials to their workforce should address these issues and ensure greater diversity in their workforce. Luckily, new technologies can help break down the gender stereotypes in the industry with data-driven performance reviews.

How to train millennials in manufacturing

8. Effectively capture tribal knowledge from your seasoned workers

To ensure that the skills and knowledge of your more seasoned employees get captured and passed on to the new generation, you should consider adopting manufacturing apps to develop interactive work instructions. By connecting these to your tools and machines, you can ensure that best practices are properly identified and captured. Digitizing processes in this way lets you create a digital record you can use to train the new generation of employees.

9. Upgrade your training programs to leverage new technologies

Having a solid training program is essential in ensuring that millennials start on the right foot at your organization. However, traditional “training buddy” programs can feel dated for a generation used to learning new skills by reading Wikipedia, watching YouTube videos or using Khan Academy. Fortunately, a slew of new technologies can help you update your training. From online learning to manufacturing apps, you can use these to speed up new employee training and meet the expectations of your younger workers.

10. Consider mentoring and co-mentoring programs

Bridge the gap between your seasoned workers and millennials through a co-mentoring program where the older generation helps the younger one understand work culture, processes, and manufacturing best practices, while the new generation helps their partners manage technology and learn new tools at work. This kind of program can improve training, communication, and culture at your company.

How to retain millennials in manufacturing

According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey, almost half of the millennials interviewed expect to leave their job in the following 2 years. Therefore, retaining talent is just as important as attracting it. Here we offer some suggestions to do this successfully.

11. Offer lifelong learning opportunities

According to the Harvard Business Review, millennials rank the opportunity to learn and grow as their first priority when evaluating new job opportunities. As your company adopts new technologies that attract a new generation of workers, it is essential that you offer ongoing training. These not only guarantee you will have the right skills in your workers, but it will also appeal to millennials who grew up with online learning and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as part of their daily life.

12. Give and request feedback from your workers

According to a Clutch survey, 72% of millennials who consistently receive accurate feedback from their managers find satisfaction in the workplace. Harvard Business Review reports similar findings. Therefore, having the proper feedback training and channels set can be one of the best perks you offer to millennial workers. However, don’t limit yourself to just giving feedback; receiving feedback is just as important. This gives younger employees the opportunity to provide innovative approaches to your challenges and feel invested in the company’s success.

13. Consider giving more flexible working conditions

In a research study on millennials, Manpower found that 79% wanted flexible working conditions. That is something that SUN is trying to offer through flexible start times and the ability to make up time in their work week. As you design your shifts and work schedules, think of ways in which you can offer new workers a more flexible work environment and how you can highlight the work-life balance of your operations.

14. Provide career development opportunities

Millennials are not interested in dead-end jobs, but rather they are ambitious in their desire for growth. Therefore, you must ensure your recruitment and training don’t imply a static position. Call out potential advancement opportunities. Better yet, differentiate your company by creating a career roadmap. The more opportunities for growth, the easier it will be to recruit new hires.

Tulip manufacturing apps make it easier than ever to train and skill shop floor associates. Media rich, interactive apps guide learners through tasks, leading to shorter training times and better information retention. If you’re interested in how Tulip can help you maximize your Industry 4.0 training program, sign up for a free trial today.