How manufacturers can turn a wave of public interest into the next generation of workers
It’s no exaggeration to say that manufacturing hasn’t been so relevant since the middle of the last century. The pandemic has given society a renewed appreciation of the industry’s crucial role in getting products to grocery store shelves, creating components for everyday technology, and delivering important medical supplies.
You have to go back to WWII to find moments that are just as important. At the time, American manufacturers were tasked with producing planes, engines, guns, and other supplies at unprecedented speed. In addition to providing vital support to the military, this mass mobilization propelled the industry to the forefront of the war effort, earning it considerable recognition among politicians and the public.
It has also had an extremely positive effect on employment. At the start of the war, unemployment reached nearly 15%, a legacy of the Great Depression. But by 1944 it had fallen to just over 1%, still a record high in the country’s history and in large part due to increased demand for manufacturing workers.
Work to do
Fast forward to today and, from a global perspective, there are encouraging signs that the current decline in unemployment as vaccines take hold will be just as rapid. Can the manufacturing industry then expect a similar job rush in the 2020s to that seen in the 1940s?
The short answer is yes, but with caveats. Last year’s forced reset gave the industry a chance to reduce its environmental footprint and fuel the country’s economic recovery as it rebuilds. Yet he also created another opportunity: namely, to recalibrate his approach to job creation and talent. Current forecasts suggest that there will be around 2.1 million manufacturing jobs to be filled by 2030, ignoring the digital skills shortage the industry faces. Individually and collectively, manufacturers must start to bridge the gap – and this could be their chance.
Yet to do so requires taking action, first and foremost, by redefining what a career in manufacturing really looks like. This, in turn, could open the door to a larger and more diverse talent pool. As Carolyn Lee, Executive Director of the Manufacturing Institute recently explained: “The shop floor will always be primarily a physical thing, but there will be a really interesting intersection around mobility, especially for the more skilled positions. If you can work in one location and only visit the factory three days a month, it is a game-changer in terms of who can do the job.
As for how to transform the industry’s enhanced public profile into its next generation of skilled workers, three key areas should guide companies’ efforts:
1. Tell a new story – to appeal to people who may have already landed in big tech companies, manufacturers need to change the way they market themselves. This means highlighting the level of innovation involved in modern manufacturing, while also showing the potential of people to have a positive impact on society. Likewise, the industry should proactively counter perceptions that see it as the “safe” or “boring” option. The manufacturing careers of the future are based on creativity, critical thinking and cutting-edge technologies.
2. Start early – manufacturers should go to colleges, high schools and even colleges to inspire young people to the opportunities offered by the industry. This means using immersive virtual technologies at career fairs and educational events to allow attendees to experience the types of exciting jobs available, while capitalizing on high-profile moments like National Manufacturing Day to invite students to tour the facilities and see them firsthand. Enlisting the help of parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and influential social voices can also help manufacturers maximize the reach and impact of their story.
3. Create routes “Encouraging a larger talent pool to consider a career in manufacturing will be pointless if the jobs promised don’t materialize or don’t match. Manufacturers should establish a clear path from graduating from high school or college to a real job and, ultimately, to a long and rewarding career. Partnerships between businesses and their communities that provide learning opportunities and tangible employment outcomes are a great place to start. Just as any new product is judged on its success in the market, manufacturers must stay focused on not only creating job opportunities, but also helping people grab them.
Surf the wave
As they seek to recover from the disruptions and challenges of the past year, manufacturers may be tempted to look at what lies ahead, to think only about the jobs of today rather than the careers of tomorrow. . It would be a mistake. Actions taken by companies to strengthen their workforce now will have a dramatic impact on their ability to thrive in a world reshaped by the pandemic and changing employee expectations for social impact, flexible working and use of technology.
Yet amid the inevitable challenges of transformation, there are reasons to be joyful. As manufacturers seek to attract, retain and retrain a new generation of workers who can help them lead and succeed in the future, they can rejoice in the fact that they have rarely had a better platform to do so. . The tide of public interest is high. It’s time to ride the wave.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.