Posted: 23 Jun. 2022 5 min. read

The manufacturing talent shortage: how to appeal to younger workers

Ways to address the great resignation in manufacturing

By Victor Reyes and Paul Wellener

US manufacturers find themselves in a unique position as job openings and turnover rise simultaneously, amid the post-pandemic “Great Resignation.” Our recent study with The Manufacturing Institute, Competing for talent: Recasting perceptions of manufacturing, highlights a significant improvement in public perceptions of manufacturing. In fact, positive perception of manufacturing jobs as creative, innovative, and using problem-solving skills, increased by more than 60% among respondents. And, equally positive, the share of parents surveyed who are likely to encourage their child to pursue a career in manufacturing doubled.

However, there is room for growth—there are significantly different perceptions between people who are “familiar” with manufacturing versus those who are not. People familiar with manufacturing in our study were nearly twice as likely to identify that manufacturing jobs are clean and safe and pay more for entry-level positions than other industries. Given the historic level of job openings in the manufacturing industry, manufacturers should seize upon this momentum to educate the market, especially those unfamiliar with manufacturing, on the types of jobs available. Manufacturers can also incorporate some key qualities to make manufacturing jobs more appealing, especially for the younger generation that is most fluid in their employment choices. The study identified the following key areas:

Top three considerations of those surveyed from the younger generation related to manufacturing jobs:

Figure: What matters to them?

  • Flexibility. Sixty three percent of the surveyed younger workforce are likely to consider a career in the manufacturing industry if offered more flexibility in shift timings and locations. Manufacturers should continue to implement additional programs, such as shift swapping, flexible core hours, and reducing overtime requirements, among others.  
  • Focus on career growth and development. Sixty percent of the surveyed younger workforce indicated that having a clear growth path is one of the factors that would encourage them to choose a manufacturing job. Yet, the study emphasizes that recent science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates may not recognize the opportunity the manufacturing industry can provide them to use their skills and build a career path and so are less inclined to pursue a career in manufacturing. Employers could work with potential hires to provide greater emphasis on programs to build digital and technical skillsets.
  • Well-being. According to our analysis, well-being has become an increasingly important aspect of workforce experience in the last year. Manufacturers can address well-being by increasing investments in transforming the physical working environment, including the actual workspace, tools, and equipment. 
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). Thirty three percent of the surveyed workforce selected the ability to be their authentic self as one of the most important factors in their workplace experience. According to a recent Deloitte report, the current generation is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in history. Having a robust DE&I strategy that factors in an organization’s influence across workforce, marketplace, and society can be an effective way to attract younger workers.

Final thoughts

Manufacturing has made good strides in changing its perception to one that more accurately reflects the dynamic, technological jobs in today’s industry. However, the industry can continue to improve perceptions by targeting outreach to families and communities to raise awareness of the benefits of a career in manufacturing.

The opportunity exists for manufacturers to capitalize on this moment and deliver many of the things younger workers want: flexible work schedules, defined career pathways, and greater support for well-being and DE&I. By listening to this next generation of the workforce, manufacturing can capture a greater share of prospective employees and lay the groundwork for a strong industry future. 

Learn more about Deloitte’s Industrial Products & Construction practice and Human Capital practice.


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