Editor’s Note: As an older Millennial who landed in Transportation Management & Logistics marketing, our target audience are manufacturers who ship freight. So, about 2+ years ago I made the choice to write about things our target audience cares about. I figured, we pepper in some tips on transportation management, but if we also offer value to manufacturers, they would turn to us as the experts.
The results speak for themselves as far as leads and customers, which means I am doing my job, simply. However, what I didn’t expect was how much joy I would get out of understanding manufacturing. You see, 1. almost everything we use is made/manufactured 2. Then it’s put on a truck to get to us (stores or direct) 3. And when either of those things suffer, our economy, and ultimately we suffer. America is a great country. It’s confusing at times. Often polarizing.
What I wrote about today are two subjects that have many opinions and heart strings. But, I would say that the collision of these two things, Manufacturing and Millennials, are truly vital to our economic sustainability.
Attracting Millenials to Manufacturing Starts with Understanding What They’ve Been Through
Millennials have witnessed countless layoffs, periods of market instability, offshoring of manufacturing entities, and other significant events in their lives. Unfortunately, these events lead to one common issue: millennials do not view the manufacturing industry as previous generations did. In the paper from Tooling-U, the industry leader in manufacturing training and a part of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), “Embracing Millennials: Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap and Gaining a Competitive Advantage,” the overwhelming majority of manufacturers believe millennials will play a vital role in the future of manufacturing. However, less than half of manufacturers understand the mindset, beliefs, and values of millennials. We also are including a great infographic on attracting millennials to manufacturing from Tooling-U at the bottom of this article.
Manufacturers need to know how technological advancements and life events over the past 20 years have impacted millennials in the following key ways if manufacturing ever hopes to secure part of this future workforce.
When many millennials had barely reached their teens, America was plunged into the War on Terror with the first of two attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993. Images of bombs, army mobilization, and the fight against terrorism permeated airwaves. The Internet was still in its infancy, and few US homes had “dialed up” and made the “connection” by 1996. When millennials saw the threats to their homes, their families, and their way of life, they felt that manufacturing could be to blame. Manufacturing went overseas, and the wars seemed to be steaming from animosity overseas, so it makes sense for millennials to blame manufacturers for helping to bring about terror. In 2001, millennials saw the destruction of both towers of the World Trade Center, and the passion for keeping America strong was born. Unfortunately, the passion began to fall through when the oldest millennials entered the workforce in 2007 and saw a huge economic collapse in 2008.
Millennials have faced an unprecedented length of economic instability, rivaled only by that of the Great Depression. Since millennials were born during the ’80s and ’90s, they have seen the mass exodus of manufacturing jobs to other countries around the globe. They have little experience to know what it means for a product to be “Made in America,” with a few exceptions, and many of them have never set foot inside a textile, or manufacturing plant. Economic instability is stressful and leads many to want careers with a guarantee, such as healthcare and trade occupations. For example, a position as a welder, which may be involved in manufacturing, sounds much more lucrative as a “metal repair shop” than a “mass-production manufacturer.” While trade positions in manufacturing have the common denotation of stability, millennials often see manufacturing as an inherently unstable option.
Additionally, millennials that went to college have had to face a rising amount of student loan debt as school tuition increased. Student loan interest rates climbed slowly. The events of 2008 also led to many millennials living with family, especially their parents, upon entering the workforce. This strengthens millennials’ desire to have stability, and manufacturers need to understand they have to show they will provide stable positions.
Rise of the Internet and Technology
The rise of the Internet brought millennials more information than any other generation ever had access to. Millennials learned new ways to achieve tasks in faster, more efficient manners, and they found a world that had never existed before. Millennials also saw simple video games become complex societies online, which allowed them to feel as though they were entitled to a Utopian existence. Millennials have gained a voice amid the chaos of manufacturing, and they have no intention of losing it. Furthermore, millennials have been able to lessen their workloads, both at home and in practice, through innovation and new items as part of technology advancement. Millennials expect things to be easy. Many do not know a time before cable, the internet, and cell phones. Manufacturers must employ the use of technology, science, and mathematics in operations to meet millennial expectations for widespread innovation. Additionally, millennials see these aspects as critical to development and paths toward success. However, manufacturers must also understand how mobile-connectivity affected millennials as well.
Many millennials had a cell phone while they were in school. The oldest millennials may not have owned a phone until high school, but the youngest millennials knew they could keep in contact with friends and family through text messaging at nearly any time, even at the digress of their school teachers. Millennials in the workforce have the same expectation. Regardless of the day’s activities, they want to know they can stay in contact with their family and friends. Manufacturers must understand that millennials are not going to put away their phones. Instead, manufacturers should take advantage of millennial-desires to stay in contact, which could actually reduce company expenses for communicating between employees and managerial staff.
Role of Social Media
In 2004, Facebook was founded, and the future of inter-connected millennials would never be the same. The old days of MySpace were out, and millennials could write whatever they wanted online. They could share their thoughts, feelings, and outrage about employers in an instant. Millennials have been at the heart of many protests, organizational efforts, and campaigns for a more eco-friendly world through the use of social media. This is not a problem for manufacturers, but it does pose the implications of how to address this sense of responsibility and entitlement. Manufacturers must show millennials they are valued in the real-world, and the company will respond to the needs of their workers. When a manufacturer chooses to ignore a millennial, it could become a national matter through social media, which is a public relations nightmare for the respective company.
The US is home to approximately 75 million millennials, and manufacturers must have millennials in their workforce as they expect a mass retirement from the Baby Boomers. Further, as manufacturing has a skills gap, it is imperative, for the sustainability of American Manufacturing, that the industry seeks out and is able to secure the talent and skills of millennials. If a manufacturer does not recognize how the past two decades have shaped millennials, the manufacturer will fail. There is not another option as the previous generations are decreasing more with each passing day. Fortunately, manufacturers can turn the tide of avoidance into a flood of acceptance by showing millennials they are vital to the future of the economy, global trade, and individual and enterprise success.