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What Will Make Gen Y Pursue Manufacturing Again?

Fri, 09/23/2011 - 4:48am

SingletonA recent report on the Deloitte Public Viewpoint on Manufacturing found that only 17 percent of surveyed individuals would consider starting a career in manufacturing. As a 23-year-old firmly rooted in Gen Y culture, that statistic didn’t really shock me. I know few people my age that list manufacturing amongst their career dreams. Personally, I never considered pursuing a career in manufacturing either.

I never thought that I’d be remotely involved in manufacturing. However, shortly after graduating college I was hired by Software Advice -- a research firm that reviews manufacturing software such as MRP system applications.

Today, I find myself reporting on the manufacturing industry and various related technologies, but it’s a far cry from a career in manufacturing.

I never gave much thought to the impact of few young people pursuing a career in manufacturing. That perspective has changed since I’ve gained a better understanding of the importance of manufacturing to our economy. I think we need to get Gen Y -- and subsequent generations -- interested in manufacturing again. I recently sketched out a few ideas I think can help make it happen.

My generation is one obsessed with being cool and it strikes me that a career in manufacturing doesn’t seem cool. This is one of the major barriers we’ll need to overcome to pique the interest of our youth. Here are a few other ways that I think we can address this issue:

Introduce Manufacturing in a Fun Setting

I never went to a summer camp as a kid, but I worked at one as a teenager. For counselor and camper alike, it’s a life-changing experience. You learn, grow, and engage in activities together. It’s is a perfect setting to introduce manufacturing principles to young people.

My favorite example of this is Gadget Camp. At this camp, kids are required to build a product from concept to creation, using CAD technology. This introduces young people to manufacturing in an entirely different way than the career is usually presented.

Bring Back Technical Education

Technical education, such as shop class, used to be a major part of most high school curricula. From my understanding, most male students were required to take at least one technical training course. Getting this kind of training didn’t mean that students were pigeon-holed into that career, but it let them know that it was an option. I think that technical training would help more youth become familiar with building with their hands. By extension, they’d be more likely to consider a manufacturing career.

Turn Manufacturing Training into a Game

We are one of the first generations that grew up hyper-connected. We have instant access to the Internet and a wealth of entertaining video games. Many young people strongly prefer playing a video game on the couch to learning about, let’s say, lean manufacturing principles.

One way to get over this barrier is to turn manufacturing education and training into a game itself. One of the most interesting examples that I’ve seen is Plantville, which Siemens recently released. It’s like Farmville with manufacturing principles and technologies built in.

These are but a few ways that I think we can get young people to consider manufacturing as a career once more. What do you think it will take? Leave me a message on my blog at:HowManufacturingCanAttractYoungTalentAgain. Alternatively, you can ping me @ERPAdvice.

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