With American manufacturing on an upward trajectory, what will it take to sustain its momentum? Karen Norheim, Executive Vice President, American Crane & Equipment Corporation and Tracy Tenpenny, Partner, Tailored Label Products (TLP), believe they have a big part of the answer.
Both Ms. Norheim and Mr. Tenpenny say that attracting Millennial (age 18-32) workers to the industry is critical for maintaining progress. They point to recent research that clearly validates their belief.
The Industry Market Barometer® (IMB) from ThomasNet , based on a survey of nearly 500 manufacturers, shows a “perfect storm” brewing: 38 percent of the respondents plan to retire within ten years, and 7 out of 10 have no succession plan. There is a ready source of talent to replace them—the Millennials—who are projected to become America’s largest living generation this year. However, at most manufacturing companies, they represent no more than 25 percent of the workforce, and 8 out of 10 manufacturers have no explicit plans to increase these numbers.
Ms. Norheim and Mr. Tenpenny regularly urge their colleagues to see past Millennial stereotypes. The naysayers they’re persuading aren’t alone: 46 percent of IMB respondents say that younger people still perceive manufacturing as “blue collar” work. Another 43 percent believe this generation lacks the work ethic and discipline to succeed. Both agree that manufacturers need to make a local footprint on what is a serious national issue.
“It’s time for the industry as a whole to overcome any negative perceptions, and focus on the strengths Millennials bring to the table. This generation is technology savvy, collaborative, socially conscious, and dedicated to making an impact. We need to look for every opportunity to draw them in – the future vitality of our industry depends on it,” said Ms. Norheim.
Ms. Norheim and her colleagues at American Crane actively encourage Millennials to seek out manufacturing careers. They serve on advisory boards of local colleges and technical schools, such as Penn State Great Valley, building a presence as an employer. In addition, they conduct regular plant tours and offer informal internship and mentorship programs. Ms. Norheim speaks at conferences such as Women in Manufacturing, U.S. Women in Nuclear, and other groups, sharing what she’s done and encouraging her peers to take action.
Believing that it’s never too early to start that flicker of interest, Ms. Norheim even made a short video about manufacturing for children, using her young niece and nephew as talent.
Mr. Tenpenny and his colleagues at TLP have succeeded in their Millennial outreach efforts – close to 50 percent of its staff are currently of that generation. TLP has even developed their “Ten Commandments for Attracting and Retaining Millennials”, including:
- Cross-train employees in three job skills/functions to give them more reasons to stay and grow.
- Continually invest in manufacturing technology to stimulate employees. Also embrace cloud computing and social media platforms that fit in with Millennials’ work and communications styles, from Google Docs to Twitter.
- Offer progressive benefits such as wellness programs using FitBit, and promote fellowship through fun events/contests at work.
“It will take the concerted effort of every manufacturer to reach across generational lines and bring this group into their business. By embracing Millennials, we can build an exciting future for us all,” said Mr. Tenpenny.
About American Crane & Equipment Corporation
American Crane & Equipment Corporation is a privately held U.S. company and a leader in material handling equipment. For more than 42 years, the company has been one of the most innovative manufacturers of high quality specialty lifting equipment for unique applications. The company is headquartered in Douglassville, Pa. See www.americancrane.com.
About Tailored Label Products (TLP)
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, TLP is a custom manufacturer of high-performance labels, tags and die-cut adhesives. TLP provides custom-engineered adhesive and label solutions for the electronics, automotive, aerospace, industrial, life sciences, medical equipment, hydraulic fluid and power industries. TLP is headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wis., and has an additional manufacturing facility in Suwanee, Ga. For more information, visit www.tailoredlabel.com.