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Recruiting Millennials for Manufacturing Careers

I was at an end of summer family barbeque the other day, and two of my nephews, 16 and 20 years old, were in attendance. As the day progressed, they spent most of the day fixated on their phones, from watching YouTube videos of cats and playing games, to tweeting and instagramming photos.

Changing the Perception of the Industry

A key recruiting challenge for the prospective Millennial may be an outdated image of manufacturing careers from popular culture and possibly even their parents.  Manufacturing today is increasingly digital and innovative. Companies looking to recruit these younger workers must actively strive to prove that they value high technology and creativity as much as Millennials do. Using visuals along with real life stories and experiences to more accurately convey manufacturing careers via digital channels is an integral part of this process. Many manufacturing plants are now innovative, technologically savvy and dare I say, cool?

Manufacturers must also connect messages to the values, needs and goals of Millennials. When it comes to careers, the many Millennials are interested in three key areas:

  • Quality of life
  • Positive impact on society
  • Future growth, education, and financial worth

With these ideals in mind, companies can highlight how manufacturing careers pay well with advancement opportunities, offer a nice work-life balance, provide job security, and make a positive impact on local jobs and communities.

And of course, most Millennials thrive with technology.  Manufacturers need to look around the plant, make the move to update your processes and utilize new technology so you really are ‘cool’.  This generation will be  able to help you improve and grow, if you have the right tools for them to capitalize on.

As an industry, manufacturers should embrace the communication tools that millennials heavily rely on such as social media, blogs, and digital platforms in general, to continuously demonstrate that manufacturing  careers do actually connect with those three key areas.

We have to also focus on embracing diversity. Women and minority communities are underrepresented in manufacturing. For example, less than one-third of manufacturing workers are women.  There is untapped  potential waiting to be included in the ‘New Manufacturing’.

Multiple Career Paths

A point that often gets lost in translation is the wide array of career opportunities in manufacturing. And just as important, there are career options for young adults at all educational levels. Some examples include:

Bachelor’s Degree

  • Biochemists
  • Human Resources
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Operations Managers
  • Computer Programming & IT
  • Production Managers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Researchers
  • Sales & Marketing

Associate’s Degree

  • Equipment Maintenance Technicians
  • Engineering Technicians
  • Semiconductor Processors

High School Diploma Plus Apprenticeship or Certificate Program

  • Assemblers
  • First-Line Supervisors
  • Inspectors
  • Machinists
  • Office Clerks
  • Shipping & Receiving
  • Tool Operators
  • Welders & Cutters

All generations are unique, with different communication methods and values – millennials are no different. By evolving how we communicate with younger adults, we can better identify the best potential employees and create the next generation of manufacturing workers.

About the author

Mary Ann Pacelli

Mary Ann Pacelli, M.Ed., is the Division Chief for Network Learning and Strategic Competitions with the NIST Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).  In this role, Mary Ann oversees the special competitions award process and the development and implementation of a plan for Learning and Knowledge Sharing across the National Network.  Recently Mary Ann was the Program Manager, Workforce Development, at MEP for over 4 years.  Her work included advocating for Manufacturing Workforce priorities with related federal agencies and providing technical support to the network of MEP centers across the country for workforce related activities.  In addition, she manages special MEP projects, and coordinates the Workforce Directors of the Manufacturing USA Institute Network, on behalf of the NIST Advanced Manufacturing Program Office. 

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With a career of more than 40 years in the manufacturing industry, I can look back now and see that I was greatly influenced by my father, who worked for an


Thanks for sharing. These pathways have been offered by several reports over the last few years as part of the uproar of skills shortage. What these articles have fallen short of is the actual life-cycle illustrations of several of these job titles as it pertains to career growth potentially accompanied by commensurate remuneration as well SUCCESS achieved. Data exists, but no one wants to share for the shear fear of competitive advantage/disadvantage, in my opinion. Until there is a paradigm shift here, we will struggle to entice the millennials.

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