Help Wanted: Millennial Manufacturers




With its aging demographic, the U.S. manufacturing sector will have more than three million jobs available by 2025. According to Forbes, millennials are projected to make up 50% of the U.S. workforce by 2020. However, nearly two million of these positions will go unfilled—due to the existing skills gap and the prevailing perception about manufacturing careers. In order to tackle this pressing issue, manufacturers must identify millennials who can successfully work in manufacturing and ignite a desire in these young minds to work in the field.

The good news is that most millennials are willing to learn; they just need the interest, knowledge and opportunity to effectively engage in manufacturing duties. Here are three key ways for manufacturers to attract millennials:

Education – Many manufacturers have been utilizing multiple learning platforms, open online courses, training programs, and hands-on opportunities in order to lure talent with extensive technical skills. Companies also have been leveraging apprenticeships so participants can gain firsthand experience about the work life of a manufacturer. 

A recent program provided by the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center encouraged students from the State University of New York at New Paltz to intern at a manufacturing facility. The students were able to witness all aspects of manufacturing and gain additional technical skills through valuable real world training. The strategic partnership between the university and HVTDC has successfully filled numerous manufacturing positions—all with millennials. 

Recruitment – So, how did some of these manufacturing companies turn learning programs into internships which segued into full-time positions? Manufacturers must understand millennials, their values, needs and goals and consider them when they define and frame job opportunities. The typical millennial is interested in:

  • Working for a winning organization
  • Quality of life
  • Positive impact on society
  • Future growth, education and financial worth

Most millennials want an opportunity for personal development, the ability to make impactful decisions and work for a high-performing, collaborative company. Most importantly, they want to make a difference. Therefore, manufacturers must offer short-term and long-term opportunities for the millennial. This typically would include elements of capability development (education, training, and mentoring) coupled with a collaborative environment that encourages participation.

Because all manufacturers are in similar situations, they must offer something that differentiates themselves from others. Manufacturers must offer opportunities that specifically reflect what matters to millennials, e.g.:

  • Pride in their organization (vision, performance, culture, workplace)
  • Work that makes the most of their skills (current or future), and provides the resources, information, authority and training necessary to perform at their best
  • Opportunity to work in teams, voice opinions and be recognized
  • Family work environment
  • Flexibility – clear instructions, concrete targets, but leave the where and how open to them

Improving the Image of Manufacturing – The hardest aspect of recruiting is perception. When millennials think of a career in manufacturing, the immediate image that comes to mind is one of hazard, dirt and hard labor. Manufacturing companies must actively strive to erase this image and replace it with one of innovation and accomplishment. Manufacturers can make the job position more attractive through the following efforts:

  • Be prepared to describe what a career with your manufacturing company can offer
  • Do a better job of telling your story
    • Raise the image of manufacturing by describing technology trends and innovation demands
    • Ensure your brand, and your message, is one of a high-performing company that has a clear vision, constructive culture and an effective leadership team
  • Be involved in the community
  • Improve the organization and cleanliness of your workplace

For those of us in the manufacturing space—we are all change agents. Do your part to help dispel myths. Raise awareness about career opportunities. Start a discussion about how state-of-the-art equipment has reinvented the typical work space. Together, we can bridge the manufacturing gap.


Russ Mason, Lean Program Manager
Russ is a Lean Program Manager for The Center’s Business Solutions Team. His areas of expertise include: change leadership and management development, sales and operations planning, management operating systems and supply chain effectiveness. Russ has more than 18 years of broad-based consulting and 16 years of manufacturing experience in a variety of industries and functional levels. He has held senior level management positions in operations, materials, quality and more. To read Russ’s full bio, click here.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Data & Trends, U.S. Manufacturing, workforce