Millennials, the generation born between 1982 and 2000s, are currently the largest demographic group in the U.S. In 2015, millennials surpassed the baby boomers and Gen Xers as the largest generation in the current U.S. labor force, according to the United State Census Bureau.

With this new generation comes a new set of wants and needs from employees and a new set of challenges for employers as they integrate these employees into a well-established workplace. These challenges can be especially poignant for manufacturing companies, some of which have been in business for years.

Perception of the Manufacturing Industry
Millennials perceive the manufacturing as a dying industry with jobs either being automated or sent overseas. However, with the recovery of the economy has come the revival of manufacturing. A report issued by the Manufacturing Institute estimates a deficit of as many as 2 million workers over the next ten years as a result of baby boomers retiring and the industry’s rebound.

How can manufacturers align millennials? Manufacturers all over the country can start by participating in Manufacturing Day, to be held on October 7, 2016. The Manufacturing Day Mission is to “address common misperceptions about manufacturing by giving manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a coordinated effort, what manufacturing is.“ More information about participating in Manufacturing Day can be found on their website at www.mfgday.com.

Manufacturers should also visit local vocational and technical schools to attract students to their companies. There are nearly 100 career centers and joint vocation schools throughout Ohio.

Purpose, Feedback, and Life Balance
Millennials are looking for purpose, feedback, and personal life balance in their work, according to the Harvard Business Review.

  • Purpose: There has been an increasing movement to encourage career and technical education at both the high school and post-secondary level. In 2015, Obama proposed a plan to offer free community college and the current Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has plans to build on President Obama’s support for skills and training of America’s workforce and to strengthen investment in American manufacturing. This would assist in bringing purpose to a manufacturing position for a millennial.
  • Feedback: Providing feedback to employees sounds like an easy task but many employers overlook this administrative burden. Employees are often provided a yearly evaluation but informal feedback throughout the year will prove advantageous as employers hire more and more millennials. Millennials thrive on constant reassurance that they are doing their job well are committed to advancing themselves in their career. If they perceive that they are not doing well at their job and there is no chance of advancement, they will likely be hard to retain.
  • Life balance: Possibly the highest priority for a millennial when looking for a career is the work-life balance. Millennials enjoy their free time and understand the importance of time spent away from work. In the age of technology, employees are expected to be available around the clock. Constantly being attached to email and phones is becoming a part of our culture. Millennials are accustomed to being available at all times, but on the flip side, expect their employer to be flexible with their time as well. Manufacturers can offer flexible shifts and paid time off to help attract millennials, and in turn, millennials will work hard for the company.

Student Debt
Lastly, to help manufacturers attract millennials to their company, they should capitalize on the generation’s desire to avoid paying the outrageous costs of going to college. Tuition, room, and board, and books in Ohio universities average over $20,000 a year.

Increasing college fees means college graduates leaving school with an average of $35,000 in student loan debt as of 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. Additionally, an increasing number of undergraduate students are going back to school to take higher education courses, which are also being financed through loans.

If manufacturers can develop and promote apprenticeship programs that are cheaper than college and offer the same promise of career growth and development, they will be able to compete in attracting millennials to their companies.

Embrace the Future Workforce
Pave the way for millennials to your manufacturing company by providing a designated purpose, routine feedback, and work-life balance for your employees. Employers who realize these needs and build programs and processes that take Millennials’ core traits into account will attract and retain the best and brightest of this generation.