According to a report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, two million manufacturing positions are likely to go unfilled in the next decade due to a lack of skilled workers. Another study, this one from the Brookings Institution, named manufacturing as one of four “promising” industries that has not yet tapped into the potential of the younger workforce.
Where are all the millennials in manufacturing? We talked with Kimberly Trubiro, corporate communications manager of manufacturing, health and safety for Cummins Inc., about why manufacturing can be an excellent career choice for today’s tech-savvy millennials.
You graduated from college and then made the non-traditional choice of beginning your career on a factory floor. How did you get there?
When I finished my master’s degree in journalism in 2009, the economy was in turmoil. After a lengthy job hunt, I landed in the shop operations department at a midrange engine plant. My role there was to use production data to help streamline the assembly process through standardization. While a huge departure from my previous work in journalism, it prepared me for my current role, leading communications strategy for corporate manufacturing, with a focus on shop floor employees. Understanding both the workforce and the environment are critical to my success, and I have the plant to thank for giving me that experience.
What is the work environment like for millennials in manufacturing?
People typically hold a negative perception of manufacturing: They picture dark, dirty, dangerous Industrial Revolution settings with workers toiling away in bad conditions. But modern manufacturing is anything but. The environments are clean, sleek and streamlined; the technology is advanced; and the processes are impressive. To me, a key aspect of the environment that really appeals to millennials is the employee interaction. Factories are like families; given the amount of time each day people spend together at work, it’s a closely knit group, committed to building a quality product as a team.
Did you – or the millennials you know in factory roles – struggle with not being connected to their devices while working? Can the “connected” generation go 8 hours without falling victim to FOMO (fear of missing out)?
The simple answer is that you have to be okay not being connected. To protect workers from safety incidents, cell phones are not allowed on the assembly line, though we use them on breaks and at lunch. I have definitely found benefits to not being connected all the time, and I actually appreciated the break from technology. It was refreshing to have a reason to go “off the grid” for a few hours at a time. It adds to the camaraderie and family feeling on the factory floor as you interact with your colleagues rather than a screen.
Is it challenging to attract millennials to manufacturing and factory positions? Why is it a position you believe millennials should consider?
At a time when younger people are attracted to start-ups, job hopping and workplace flexibility, manufacturing can seem old fashioned. In reality, a manufacturing environment builds management, leadership and teamwork skills; gives employees access to cutting-edge technology; and exposes employees to opportunities for promotion and education. And, think of this: The most advanced products you own were likely made in factories. This isn’t your grandfather’s idea of a factory – it’s a new age of manufacturing technology, and it needs young employees to drive that innovation forward into the future.
What is your advice to companies wanting to attract more millennials in manufacturing and factory jobs?
Companies need to focus on the innovative aspects of their manufacturing jobs and combat the outdated factory stereotype. With a renewed focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at many schools, my hope is that today’s students will be more likely to see manufacturing as a desirable career option.
What is your advice to companies wanting to retain millennials in factory roles once they are there?
Factory settings are inherently hectic, and managers are often stretched thin over their myriad responsibilities. To retain millennials in manufacturing, leaders must focus on communicating openly with them, giving relevant feedback and developing them within their roles – such as offering leadership opportunities – so they feel empowered in their jobs.
Manufacturing companies, how do you recruit millennials? If you’re a millennial, what aspects of a career in manufacturing appeal to you? Please share in the comments!
Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, and the world’s top media outlets…and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.