Millennials in Manufacturing: How the Youngest in the Workforce Are Changing the Game

Read Time: 3 minutes

Millennials have a bad reputation — older generations tend to think they’re lazy and entitled because they prefer to work outside the established norms. They are succeeding outside those norms, though, and are changing the way many classic industries are functioning. The manufacturing industry is one example of an industry experiencing dramatic changes, as older baby boomers start to retire and millennials with new ideas and new work ethics are taking over. How are millennials expected to change the manufacturing industry?

A Changing Field

While manufacturing may be making advances in a variety of fields, the basics have remained largely the same — raw materials come in from suppliers, and workers alter them as needed to make and assemble the finished product.

Recent advances are changing the field — and as a result, the workforce is changing with it. Cloud data storage and real-time monitoring, for example, allow companies to keep track of information on their physical servers, in addition to storing a constantly updated backup in the cloud, which could be an essential tool in the event of physical server failure.

Unfortunately, in much the same way the manufacturing industry hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years, the people working in the industry haven’t changed much, either. As a result, implementing changes in these industries has traditionally been a slow and tedious process.

Problems in the Workplace

Several problems are holding the manufacturing industry back. Vocational schools, for example, have a reputation for being outdated, and don’t get the emphasis they used to. Schools are shifting their focus from STEM careers to humanities degrees, despite the growing number of STEM-related careers opening up every year.

Manufacturing also suffers from an image problem — many people see it as a boring and often obsolete work field, something that doesn’t appeal to millennials who are trying to shake up the established way of doing things. Millennials don’t want boring jobs — they want exciting ones, and unless the manufacturing industry can change its old image, it’s not going to be appealing to anyone in the younger generations.

The Most Educated Generation

People have a lot of nicknames for millennials — not all of them kind — but one that is becoming more popular is “Most Educated Generation.” When compared to previous generations, 29 percent of men and 36 percent of women have completed bachelor’s degrees in various fields. For comparison, in the “Silent Generation” — people who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s — only 15 percent of men completed comparable degrees, and only 9 percent of women had done the same.

More education is never a bad thing — but the members of the millennial generation want careers where they can use their expertise, and even for individuals with STEM degrees, manufacturing doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities.

How to Entice the Modern Millennial

What can the manufacturing industry do to entice the modern millennial into a manufacturing career?

  • Keep them moving Millennials thrive when their workspace is constantly changing, and mobile technology allows anyone to complete their work on the go. Look into ways to incorporate remote positions into your workplace. Even if they do need to come into the office from time to time, having the option to work remotely is a boon for most millennials.
  • Listen to their ideas There is perhaps no better generation to talk to about incorporating new technology into your manufacturing practices than millennials. They’ve grown up with technology as an integral part of their lives, and many of the older members of the generation have watched technologies be born, live and die in their lifetimes — the CD is a great example of this.
  • Let them work together Millennials prefer collaboration over individual work, so setting them up to collaborate with their peers is a great way to help them succeed while improving your overall processes.

Above all else, millennials want to be part of something meaningful, where their employer recognizes their achievements and values their contributions. If you can incorporate more meaning and appreciation into your business practices, you’re sure to entice any number of newly graduated millennials to your industry, helping it grow and thrive in the future.

Category: Manufacturing & Engineering

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing. Love what you're reading on Schooled By Science? Don't forget to subscribe today!