Training, Technology Vital for Manufacturers Recruiting Younger Workers, Study Says

Updated: Mar 3

By Supply Chain Dive

This article was published in Supply Chain Dive February 10, 2021. We are sharing because it underlines many of the workforce challenges we have discussed in Behind the Seams and at SPESA and other industry events. We recently wrote about one possible solution that would use gaming technology to train workers.


Dive Brief

  • Manufacturers will need a compelling vision that includes clear career pathways and training opportunities to attract millennial and Generation Z job candidates, according to a report published last month by Tooling U-SME, an industry training nonprofit.

  • Workers of younger generations "expect companies to demonstrate a strong sense of purpose and want to be part of that," Tooling U-SME said, and manufacturers can appeal to such workers by showing how each individual role ties into the company's broader mission.

  • Tooling U-SME said its past research has shown manufacturers plan to invest in tech such as 3D printing and robotics, which could appeal to younger workers familiar with or interested in advanced tech. In April 2020, a study by the nonprofit found 52% of manufacturers surveyed said their companies would be allowing some employees to work remotely, reflecting a larger push to rely on technology, per the report.

Dive Insight

Supplier deliveries slowed at an increased rate at the end of last year, according to the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing report. Challenges with labor availability was partly to blame, according to ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee Chair Timothy Fiore.


One company surveyed in the ISM report noted employee shortages were affecting the service levels suppliers were able to provide. Another said suppliers' challenges finding and retaining labor led to supply constraints.


To address the Tooling U-SME's commentary on training needs, manufacturers will need to contend with a widening digital skills gap.


An April 2020 National Skills Coalition report found that one in three manufacturing workers have limited or no digital skills, which the coalition said is "especially problematic in the modern environments of advanced and precision manufacturing." That could make attracting candidates with strong technology-oriented skills all the more important for the sector.


Tooling U-SME called development programs a "must-have perk," citing 2018 research by LinkedIn that showed 62% of surveyed Gen Z members wanted to learn to improve at their job, while 59% sought to do so to earn more.


Employers have had to rethink how they reach out to and recruit younger candidates, sources previously told Supply Chain sister publication HR Dive. For example, employers may look for different types of experiences from such candidates.


Overall, however, manufacturers should not generalize about younger employees, Tooling U-SME said in a statement accompanying its report. Instead, the organization said employers should offer younger employees the opportunity to share ideas and goals during brainstorming sessions and offer regular and immediate feedback.


Manufacturers may already have the interest of younger employees. A 2019 survey of Gen Z members by manufacturing software provider Leading2Lean found respondents were 7% more likely to consider working in manufacturing compared to the general population, and were also less likely to view the industry sector negatively compared to other workers.

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