We've got a real problem on our hands in America. A gap's growing between manufacturing workers set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years and those on the other end of the spectrum. Despite the exciting and innovative things happening in the industry, millennials' outdated perception of shop-floor jobs is increasingly precluding them from following the career path. And Gen-Z, thumb deep in their smart phones, face an even greater disconnect.
The reality is manufacturing continues to evolve with other industries. Many of today's workers have tech-savvy jobs that ask them to use software in ways involving modeling products with 3D visualization tools, mining big data with analytics, and automating assembly with robotics. From procurement to design, building, delivery, and service, there's considerable opportunity--not to mention massive room for growth--at some of the world's largest companies.
Something has to be done, and it's going to take more than Jason Statham doing a movie about how his character's contract manufacturing company is getting strong-armed by the mob into 3D printing guns. Resurging interest in manufacturing as a career will require a systemic effort, both publicly and privately. It's going to have to be approached from the ground up, and we've come up with a list of 7 things that will help attract the younger workforce to manufacturing.
1. Manufacturing Summer Camps
Most parents are looking for ways to keep their kids busy during summers. And in recent years there's been a rise in the number of manufacturing and engineering-oriented summer camps, each of which aims to inspire and equip youth with tangible and exciting real-world experiences.
A well-known example of this is Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs (NBT), the foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Intl. With week-long camps spread throughout the country, NBT provides middle school-aged and high school-aged kids the opportunity to ideate, design, and build products. They get to learn about and use technology such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, as well as different types of manufacturing machinery such as CNC machines and lathes (under professional supervision of course).
2. 3D Printing at Home and in School
Although 3D printing has been around for a while, recent advancements have changed the game. Improvements in terms of price, materials used, and the technology itself are aiding 3D printing's move beyond the shop floor, into homes and schools. This trend seems to be moving in the right direction, and access to the technology is poised to only help encourage more of tomorrow's tech-savvy makers.
3. Gamification in Manufacturing
Anytime you gamify something, it's going to be more interesting and relatable to the youth. Today's teenagers grew up with games, but not the ones we played several decades ago. These games are complex, often requiring understanding and the use of technology. In the past few years, there have been several pushes toward the gamification of manufacturing, the most notable of which being Siemens' Plantville.
Siemens Plantville is a gaming platform, hosted online, that simulates what it's like to be a plant manager. The goal is to improve productivity, quality, safety, on-time deliveries, and energy management, and users are rated based on a number of KPIs. The game's designed for not only manufacturing professionals, but also for both high school and college students. There have even been a few competitions held in high schools.
This post has been reprinted from the MFRTech News Weekly Newsletter from the week of May 8, 2014. Next week's LEAN Accountants post will cover points four through seven.