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ResourceMFG | Manufacturing Workforce Specialists
5 steps to make manufacturing more engaging for the next generation

One of the biggest issues facing the manufacturing industry these days is the fact that many older workers are approaching retirement age, resulting in a talent gap. That's true for the sector as a whole, but also many individual companies. For that reason, a large number of industry organizations and individual businesses are doing more outreach with kids in junior high and high school.

The goal, obviously, is to get those kids engaged with the opportunities a career in manufacturing can provide them. The following suggestions could help you bridge that skills gap more effectively in the future:

1) Change the introduction method

Often, the best way local manufacturers connect with teen students is by having them take a field trip to the facility to show them what the shop floor is really like, according to IndustryWeek. However, that kind of one-and-done introduction probably won't be enough to sink in for kids with plenty of other interests. If you can work with schools to build a manufacturing component into an existing science curriculum, that extra mile will surely help.

2) Help kids picture themselves in the industry

Many young people operate under the misconception that manufacturing jobs are for "someone else" and don't really interest them, IndustryWeek noted. For that reason, it's helpful to get them to really get a hands-on feel for not just the concepts that go into making someone a good manufacturing employee, but the actual work itself. Make it a fun, low-stakes exercise that teaches them the ropes, and they might be surprised at how much they enjoy it.

3) Highlight how skilled workers have to be

Along similar lines, many youngsters might have the perception that the manufacturing industry is a job that doesn't require much skill, know-how or expertise — and you know that couldn't be further from the truth, according to Paula Hynes of the Rodon Group, writing for the Plastics Industry Association. It's your job to dispel that misunderstanding. Hands-on work combined with some straight talk from industry pros can help to rectify this misperception.

4) Shift the perception

The entire point of these outreach efforts should be to show kids that the manufacturing industry has a little something for everyone and requires some serious dedication, hard work and training on an ongoing basis, the Hynes added. When people think of manufacturing work as a goal they need to strive to achieve, it sets a goal for them, rather than serving as a potential fallback position.

5) Start early

Finally, experts say that if you really want to get more kids excited about the opportunities that await them in the manufacturing sector, capturing their imagination earlier in their lives isn't a bad idea, according to Manufacturing Day. There are at least basic concepts of the sector that can work in grade-school kids, for example, and if you can develop the right approach to connecting with those students, you'll be in great shape to keep engaging with them as time goes on.

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