Manufacturing Tomorrow


How Should Manufacturers Develop The Next Generation Of Workers?

Dec 20, 2016
By: Jeffrey H. Wulf
Manufacturing and Distribution

As more manufacturing employees near retirement, the industry must find ways to attract and retain young people in order to survive.

The average age of manufacturing workers today is 40 to 50 years old, and businesses are feeling more pressure to figure out how to be better positioned for long-term success.

The article highlights strategies to develop the workforce of the future, such as partnering with higher education institutions to develop a curriculum that prepares students to enter manufacturing jobs upon graduation. Universities are eager to form such partnerships because they want their students to succeed. The benefit to manufacturers is clear — future workers get specialized training to fill needed roles.

It’s also wise to make changes in your own environment to make it more attractive to the next generation. Younger people entering the workforce are used to flexibility, transparency and immediate access to information. To appeal to those preferences, manufacturing organizations should consider having a more open and collaborative work environment.

For example, for front- or back-office employees, it might make sense to knock down some walls — literally — and create an open office space. This helps to create a greater sense of team and belonging.

Many younger workers also appreciate organizations with less hierarchy of management. They’re motivated by the opportunity to have many different learning experiences. It’s not necessarily about reaching the next level in their department — it’s about broadening their competencies or skills in an entirely different area.

To attract and keep young employees, it’s a good idea to make it easier for them to learn new skills or work in another part of the organization. Exposing employees to more aspects of the business serves two purposes. First, it helps people to discover what’s most interesting to them. Having more engaged employees is always good. Second, cross-training benefits the organization, as a more diverse workforce means more people are able to move into different roles as necessary. In that sense, it’s a win-win for both employees and the business.

Manufacturers should take steps to help attract and retain younger employees to take them into the future. It’s critical to identify what the next generation views as valuable and find ways to support those values.


Jeffrey H. Wulf
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