Millennials, the next generation of employees, are Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s. They are the largest and most diverse generation in the U.S., representing one-third of the total population in 2013. By 2025, Millennials will make up approximately 75% of the U.S. workforce. They have very specific views about work, what they desire from an employer, and what they want out of life. Manufacturers need to gain a better understanding of this generation and adapt their branding and hiring practices to reach Millennials in the coming years, especially in the manufacturing industry.

Industry Trends

The manufacturing industry is progressing at an amazing rate, and requires the ability to constantly adjust as it is influenced by many factors, including governing agencies, the global economy, and consumer trends to name a few. A more recent contributing factor is the skilled labor shortage, which is partly a result of manufacturer perception of the education system, society’s perception of manufacturing and its effects on career choices, current manufacturing hiring techniques, employee compensation and workforce retirement rates. It is estimated that there are anywhere from 200,000-600,000 positions classified under “skilled laborers” that are available.

To help solve this employment gap, manufacturers must create a plan to attract Millennials as they change careers or enter the workforce. Currently, most manufacturers say Millennials represent only a small percentage of their workforce, and the majority of companies do not have plans or strategies to change this. Of the staff they are hiring, 80% of those are Baby Boomer age or older. This is not surprising considering nearly half of all those in manufacturing jobs are over 55 years old. Millennials will replace these retiring Baby Boomers. Many people – not just Millennials – still perceive manufacturing as “blue collar” work, making it critical for manufacturers to improve their image and update their recruiting methods to attract the next generation of skilled workers.

According to a 2011 study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, Unwavering Commitment: The public’s view of the manufacturing industry today, the U.S. public registers a strong belief in the importance of manufacturing for the country’s economy, but when it comes to choosing manufacturing as a career choice, they place it near the bottom of the list. Most families do not encourage their children to pursue manufacturing related positions, adding to the labor shortage.

What do Millennials Care About?

Before you begin developing a strategy to attract more Millennials to your manufacturing positions, you first need to understand what they care about and what they expect from an employer.

⇒Millennials work when they feel like working. As long as they get their work done, the amount of time they are at work doesn’t matter.

⇒Millennials like a casual but innovative work environment and don’t separate their personal and professional life.

⇒Millennials are great at multitasking and can juggle multiple responsibilities at once.   After all, it almost appears as if many of them were born with smartphones in their hands and laptop attached to their hips.

⇒Millennials value having a job they enjoy and want to be challenged. They are not as willing as their parents to sacrifice their personal life just to advance their careers.

⇒Millennials want a flat organizational structure that promotes collaboration, not the typical hierarchy. They like building valued relationships with colleagues.

⇒Millennials like instant gratification and recognition and want to receive immediate feedback rather than waiting for a scheduled review. They need to feel what they are doing is important and that their opinions matter.

⇒Millennials are tech-savvy and concerned with having many opportunities to grow their technical expertise and progress into leadership roles.

⇒Millennials want the companies they work for to support various causes.

⇒Millennials expect transparency and honesty from their co-workers and supervisors. They don’t want any surprises once they join a company.

Ideas to Improve in the Future 

As Baby Boomers move closer to retiring, there are several changes manufacturers can implement to make positions in manufacturing more appealing to Millennials.

  1. Develop manufacturing apprenticeships and internship programs to give Millennials the chance for hands-on experience right inside a potential employer’s manufacturing facility.
  2. Host or be involved in a local Manufacturing Day℠. “Manufacturing Day is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. Although Manufacturing Day officially occurs on the first Friday in October (October 2, 2015 this year) any day can be a Manufacturing Day.”
  3. Provide Millennials with a mentor so they will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their concerns, and the mentor can encourage and inspire them.
  4. Provide flexible hours and vacation time so Millennials have the opportunity to work on their own schedule and maintain their work-life balance.
  5. Create and encourage an open work environment where Millennials have the opportunity to collaborate and be creative and innovative.
  6. Partner with high schools, technical colleges and universities in the community and provide tours of facilities or the opportunity for students to experience working there for a day to create excitement for a future career in manufacturing.
  7. Change negative perceptions by promoting new technologies in your facility and showing how innovative the manufacturing industry is today.
  8. Update recruiting strategies and techniques to include increasing social media an internet presence*, and consider alternatives to the traditional interview setting and process.

    *Millennials are not excited to work for a company that has a 5+ year old website.


There is an exciting future for manufacturing, but traditional methods of recruiting will not attract Millennials to the opportunities available to them. In order to close the workforce gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials and stay competitive, productive and innovative manufacturers must understand and embrace the next generation of employees. 


o    Flickr (photo 1)
o    NextAvenue (photo 2)