Manufacturing and the Millennials

Matt Powell   

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The reality is, they’re going to make up the largest proportion of the workforce (75%) by 2025.

Hey Boomers, forget everything you’ve been told (or assumed) about the Millennials. It’s all myth. Canada’s next generation of workers is a lot like you. But as the current regime, you’ll need a better understanding of what makes them tick if they’re to be enticed into the world of manufacturing.

Here are some typical misconceptions about Millennials (18 to 32): they’re spoiled, entitled, lazy day dreamers who spend most of their days gazing at a cell phone or tablet navigating Twitter or Instagram feeds; and they lack the work ethic and discipline needed to succeed.

In fact, the most educated generation will be the first that doesn’t have to adapt to online technologies (because they played a role in building them), and research shows that these young workers are a key resource for your companies. They are, after all, going to make up the largest proportion of the workforce (75%) by 2025.

A Pew Research study published in January finds that, like your generation, they don’t want to change jobs all the time. In fact, they value job security more than you Boomers.


Here are some other statistics: 50% say having a job you enjoy is incredibly important, compared to 38% of Boomers. High paying positions are low on list of work priorities. Development and work/life balance are more important. And (believe it or not) they don’t all want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook). They are more educated (27% of woman have a degree, 21% of men) than the Boomers (14% of women have a degree, 17% of men), but haven’t found work as quickly. They’re connected by social media, saddled by debt, and in no rush to marry. Most importantly, though, they’re optimistic about the future.

Meanwhile, Boomers are retiring, and they’ll be creating a lot of job vacancies for several years as manufacturers struggle to find people with the right skills.

Peruse PLANT’s Manufacturers’ Outlook 2015 survey and you’ll find 50% of respondents say finding skilled workers will be their biggest challenge over the next three years; while 49% identify this issue as their biggest constraint to growth. Fifty-eight per cent of them are handling the problem with internal training, but only 28% are partnering with post-secondary institutions. As for training, only 21% have turned to social media or webinars and only 20% work with local post-secondary institutions.
Boomers – your generation gap is showing. To attract more Millennials you need to gear your hiring practices and train with them in mind. That means embracing their interest in the online world and investing in higher-tech tools.

New regime
Millennials are certainly aware of and interested in manufacturing. A recent Intuit survey found many agree that it’s key to good jobs and economic growth. More than 90% of respondents said so, agreeing with Boomers who weighed in at 95%.

The industrial world is changing. It’s moving towards more high-tech activity and value-added manufacturing that requires an educated and skilled workforce. Take Ontario’s technology sector: you’ll find young up-and-comers plying the drone and robotics fields and the energy sector is nicely aligned with the Millennial value system, which favours renewable energy and green technology development.

But there’s work to be done. The Intuit survey shows among those with high school or less, 47% consider the manufacturing sector to be very important to providing good jobs. This percentage decreases as the level of education increases – 38% with a college diploma or some university and 29% with a university degree believe the sector is key to providing good employment.

Boomers, look past the myths and relate to Millennials in ways that will engage them. They are the business leaders of tomorrow and manufacturing’s future depends on them.


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