I came across this great blog written by a Gen Yer called Derek Singleton titled “How Manufacturing can Attract Young Talent Again“.  He is an ERP Analyst for a company called Software Advice and he covers the manufacturing software market.  In the blog he ponders why he never thought to choose a career in manufacturing.  He realizes that there are many reasons why young professionals like himself would never think of it either.  Things like not having popular role models in manufacturing. Can you think of even one person in manufacturing that you’ve heard of?   For that matter, when was the last time we heard a positive story about manufacturing?  All we hear about are plant closings and how the factories are being moved overseas.

Derek goes on to explain why it’s important to pursue manufacturing careers and his points are well taken.  What I liked best is that Derek had some suggestions to making  manufacturing cool again to attract Gen Yers.  Take gamification for instance.  Did you know that there are 3D games that show new hires (aka Gen Yers) how to operate oil refinery equipment? Or that there’s a game called Plantville which is similar to Farmville designed to teach manufacturing processes and technologies to new hires?  Companies like Invensys and Siemens have been investing their money in the gamification of manufacturing.  How cool is that?

Derek also had a great idea about having manufacturing summer camps!  Isn’t that great?  What about restoring shop classes back in high school?  The point is that you can’t expect young people to get excited about a career in an industry they have no exposure to or is not perceived in a good light.

It’s by attracting young talent that manufacturing can get a facelift and perhaps become cool again.  Derek’s blog reminded me of several blogs I’ve written this past year on a similar vein. Last year, I wrote about Kristine Harper who followed her father’s footsteps and choose a career in mainframes.  Yes, that’s right – mainframes.  She started an IBM Share user group called “zNextGen There are over 700 engineers, all of them Millennials, that are “looking to improve mainframe technology skills and find places to use them.” 

The manufacturing sector needs a Kristine Harper to jumpstart change, make it cool again and get Gen Yers excited about being a part of the change.  The Armed Forces is another example.  I’ve blogged several times about how different groups within the Armed Forces are using gamification to attract Gen Yers.

But first, Gen Yers have to know the industry exists in the first place.  They have to be exposed to it, hear about it, learn about it, see role models in manufacturing that are making a difference, that are making change.

What do you think?  Do you like Derek’s ideas on making manufacturing cool?  Do you think it will atract Gen Yers? What ideas do you have to make it cool? Or do you think it’s too late? I hope not.  Because if there’s an industry that needs the creativity, fresh blood and curiosity of Gen Yers, it’s manufacturing.  Here’s to making “Shop” cool again…