How to Inspire the Next Generation of Manufacturing Workers

Inspiring the next generation of manufacturing workerstion of ma

Manufacturers need to inspire and empower the next generation of manufacturing workers to keep the industry growing. Thousands of manufacturers are contributing to the cause of attracting workers to the industry this month. Starting today with Manufacturing Day and progressing through the month, MFG Day 2022 provides every manufacturer an opportunity to highlight opportunities available in the industry.

A motivating factor for manufacturers is how labor shortages continue to constrain production. By taking action to improve recruiting, retaining, and training, manufacturers can do their part to inspire workers to choose challenging and rewarding careers in the industry. Manufacturers will need to fill an estimated 4 million jobs in 2030, with approximately half of them, or 2.1 million jobs, projected due to be unfilled due to a lack of qualified manufacturing workers, according to a Manufacturing Institute and National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) study.

What Manufacturing’s Next Generation Of Workers Is Looking For 

Attracting and inspiring manufacturing talent must start with a clear understanding of their expectations. According to IndustryWeek’s 2021 Future Manufacturing Workforce Study, manufacturing’s next generation of workers is defined by their need for face-to-face interaction with managers and teams, schedule flexibility, and employers who support work-life balance. (The next generation of manufacturing workers is predominantly Gen Z or those born between 1997-2012.)

According to the IndustryWeek study, they’re also digitally savvy, learn new applications quickly, and are most interested in working for manufacturers who see the value of smart manufacturing technologies. In addition, it’s inspiring and motivating for them to visit manufacturers and see new technologies in action, producing new products. The following are the most effective ways manufacturers can inspire Gen Z employees:

  • Share your manufacturing expertise with the local community. Creating interest in manufacturing starts by sharing your expertise and knowledge of the industry with your local community, including:
    • Actively support and sponsor local schools’ STEM activities
    • Provide ongoing plant tours for all schools in your area so students in junior high, high school, and local universities have the opportunity to see manufacturing in action
    • Offer virtual plant tours that explain how different products are made
    • Sponsor and launch training programs that provide hands-on educational opportunities
    • Offer to teach short courses at the local community colleges and universities in your area of manufacturing expertise
    • Hold job fairs and educational fairs
  • Offer virtual plant tours and use them to start your own YouTube channel. Manufacturers are creating weekly videos explaining different aspects of their operations to their local communities, whose schools also use them as learning materials. Consider creating a YouTube video monthly covering how ERP is streamlining manufacturing or supply chains.
  • Create an apprenticeship program that provides a solid career path. Attract and retain next-generation manufacturing workers by offering to train them on the latest technologies under an apprenticeship. For example, SEA-LECT Plastics, a leading provider of plastic injection molding, design, product development, and expert tooling in the Pacific Northwest, has long had an apprenticeship program. The program is groundbreaking; it provides on-the-job training in SOLIDWORKS and hands-on opportunities to learn mold-making in a production environment. At the end of the apprenticeship, apprentices are offered a full-time job designing and creating molds. Mold makers average salaries between $70,000 to $89,000 a year.
  • Use social media to tell exciting stories about your company’s growth, fascinating customers, and great people. The next generation of manufacturing workers is fluent on nearly all social media platforms well before they reach high school. Recruit a company member who knows these platforms and have them create short video stories that can be shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, and other platforms. Play to the strengths of each platform with your content and be consistent. Show how the more interesting smart manufacturing technologies, including robotics, work. Make manufacturing look cool with compelling content shared on these platforms.


Attracting and retaining manufacturing workers is a challenge. The good news is that manufacturers can take steps now to inspire the next generation of workers the industry needs to grow. The four strategies defined here are just a start. According to the IndustryWeek study, Gen Z workers are looking for career paths, the chance to be part of a company using the latest technologies, and a culture that values training and development. Bringing all those elements together will inspire manufacturing workers for generations to come, making your company one that experienced professionals will also seek out and want to work for.


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