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According to the Manufacturing Institute, the manufacturing industry has had over 2.6 million job openings in 2022 alone. Unfortunately, this skills gap—the difference between skills needed for open positions and the current talent pool—shows no signs of shrinking. A 2021 report predicts up to 2.4 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2028, which could put $2.5 trillion of the United States’ gross domestic product at risk.

Hiring new workers to replace the retiring workforce is a top concern for many employers. The Workforce Institute found that attracting GenZ talent (people born after 1996) is a high priority for 88% of manufacturers surveyed. Let’s explore a few ways employers can hire and train the next generation of workers and build a skilled, competent workforce for the future.

Highlight Advanced Tech & Automation

Industry experts agree that advanced technology and automation are key attractors for a younger, tech-savvy generation of workers. Most members of GenZ were born in homes where internet access was a given. They grew up with computers and smartphones in their everyday lives and are comfortable using it for entertainment, education, and work.

In an interview for Automation World, Jesse Hill, process industry manager at Beckhoff Automation, said, “Embracing new technologies is key to providing a pool of talent for the process industries. A generation of engineers with experience in traditional process technologies such as 4-20mA, HART, Foundation Fieldbus, etc., is exiting the workforce. Now, processing facilities need to replace this talent with a younger workforce that is schooled on emerging technologies, which is where their interest lies.”

Michael Risse, vice president at Seeq (a supplier of industrial analytics software), said “Younger generations expect something better than the 30-year-old tradition of spreadsheets and historians. They are frequently comfortable with coding or scripting and, based on consumer experiences, they expect innovation in their software.”

Not only can new technologies help manufacturers become more future focused and sustainable, but the next generation’s unique digital skills can help companies integrate and adapt to the new tech quickly and efficiently.

Create a Clear Path Forward

The up and coming generation of workers wants to know there are clear steps forward. In a 2021 study on the future manufacturing workforce, 67% of GenZ talent said clear goals and transparent career paths was the main driver of career satisfaction.

One way employers can create these clear paths forward is to have a seamless onboarding experience followed by actionable training plans. Skills assessments can be useful during the hiring process because they identify a candidate’s technical strengths and weaknesses. Then, employers can use these insights to focus on areas where a new hire may need more training—making the most use of the trainer’s time and lessening the overall time to competency.

The desire for transparency also applies to work performance. The study also found that 70% of GenZ employees want recognition for their work, and 69% want feedback on their job performance. Whether moving on to the next training module, getting an industry certification, or taking the next step of a career path, the younger workforce wants to know what’s coming next in their professional lives.

Speak their Language

Younger workers are more likely to want to work for companies with similar social, environmental, and political perspectives. When rating important features of manufacturing companies, 70% of GenZ said it was “very important” for the company to have strong social values and 31% said diversity and inclusion initiatives were “extremely important.”

More personal concerns like work-life balance also rank high on GenZ’s career wish list. More time off (31%) and options for a flexible schedule (22%) were among the top reasons a GenZ employee would consider changing manufacturing jobs.

Work to Change Perceptions

The manufacturing industry has been working to change outdated and negative perceptions for years and it seems efforts are starting to pay off. A 2019 survey found that 32% of GenZ had manufacturing suggested to them as a career option compared to 18% of Millennials. GenZ also seems to be more interested in manufacturing jobs than previous generations and 92% of those employed in the industry report being happy with their jobs.

Misconceptions still exist, especially around salary. An Industry Week survey found that 53% of the general population assumes the salary for a mid-level manufacturing manager is under $60,000. In reality, the average yearly salary for a manufacturing manager was $120,000 as of September 2022. In addition to great salaries, certifications, apprenticeships, and other training programs can help people jump into careers without debt from a four-year degree.

Educating your community by visiting local schools and attending career fairs is a great way to help more people (both younger and older generations) realize how rewarding manufacturing careers can be. Annual events like the Manufacturing Institute’s MFG Day can help demonstrate that the industry is “high skilled, high tech, clean, creative, and welcoming to people of all backgrounds and talents.”

Build a Skilled Workforce with NBS

Our mission at Nocti Business Solutions is to help employers accurately measure the skills and knowledge of potential candidates or current employees. Our library of 170+ technical and employability skills assessments can help employers gain unique insight that can be used to inform hiring and training decisions.

Want to build a more competent and well-rounded workforce? Contact NBS to see if our skills assessments and pre-employment tests are a good fit for your organization.