9 Ways to Promote Manufacturing as a Rewarding Career Path

Posted: Jul 25, 2018

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry is reeling as baby boomers retire and jobs are left unfilled. As manufacturing tries to attract Millennials and Generation Z, there’s been a national conversation on how to promote manufacturing careers in 2018 and beyond. 

Larry Fast of IndustryWeek laid out detailed suggestions for promoting manufacturing in both the short term and long term. In the short term he suggests these 9 strategies:


1) In the short term, we have little choice but to compete with the almighty dollar to recruit basic unskilled or semi-skilled labor position, so promote the idea that manufacturing pay better than many other position.

For example, a person working in a fast-food restaurant may make $10 to $15 per hour working on what amounts to a first or second-shift job in a plant. Working in manufacturing, that same person likely would start on 2nd or 3rd shift, which often pays $15 to $25 per hour for unskilled or semi-skilled labor. While these manufacturing positions may not be the ultimate destination for these workers, they are a way for them to get their foot in the door where numerous other opportunities will be available to them as they increase their skills. If they already have or are willing to learn, the mindset necessary for helping the business improve, they will do very well.

2) Market to these young people that they can be part of a proud workforce building great products for customers – and then help them succeed.

For example, in the interviewing process take the time to get a real insight into an applicant’s thinking. Ask “Are you willing to take additional training to upgrade skills? Do you take initiative to identify and solve problems? Are you a team player? As an hourly employee in a support role, do you have the interest and ambition to become a machine operator—a very responsible and important hourly job that may pay in a range of $25 to $50 per hour? Do you aspire to someday be a supervisor or a quality technician?” Manufacturing jobs are more available now than they’ve been in a long time. Our mission as leaders and recruiters is to attract these folks and encourage them to “go for it” then support them when they sign on. 

3) Aggressively recruit necessary technical skills with local tech schools and junior colleges.

Many millennials who aren’t interested in a four-year degree have grown up with modern technology, are comfortable working with it, and likely can be trained to do jobs such as programming of CNC machines, becoming an expert electronic technician, quality technician, tool and die maker, etc.

4) Visit local schools and tell the story of manufacturing as a career path for students just like them.

Promote expanded use of Junior Achievement programs that are offered in elementary, middle, and high schools. Attend every jobs fair in your area and tell your story. It’s all about marketing, isn’t it? What is your value proposition to attract new talent into manufacturing?

5) Plan resources for an in-house education and training resource(s) where high numbers of people will require the same training (Lean 101, Green Belt Certification, Being a Good Teammate, etc.) for years to come.

This is a long-term process to sustain training needs, but the plan needs to be done now with implementation to commence in the short term.

6) The local plant and HR managers, along with the school board, Chamber of Commerce, local and regional government should join forces to create a strategy that supports programs that promote manufacturing careers.

Plant managers, take the lead! Educate these important community leaders. 

7) At a more macro level, it’s high time that senior manufacturing leaders increase their presence to market their companies as great places to work. (Of course, make sure this is a fact, NOT smoke).

For example, they should be proudly taking credit for: the sea change in safety results over the last two decades; working to change factory cultures to be much more inclusive and collaborative with all employees (hourly folks no longer have to check their brains at the time clock and pick them up when they leave); marked improvements in customer service; increasing use of state-of-the-art technology; jobs that pay great wages and benefits, etc. The only company that immediately comes to mind for promoting manufacturing on major media is GE. What I’ve seen is targeted specifically to engineering graduates, and it’s fair to say that companies do a far better job in recruiting for salaried positions. I went through several Google screens trying to find other companies promoting manufacturing in a broader way and gave up.

8) What about social media?

Nearly everyone these days is on some kind of social media and checks it regularly. Has anyone ever seen on any form of social media (Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter) a “recruiting/selling” ad that advocates working in manufacturing? CEOs, senior marketing, and HR leaders of manufacturing companies need a plan and a broad-based strategy to be highly visible on select media so the world knows: “We have great employment opportunities at ACME Manufacturing, Inc.” 

9) Add your own thoughts here.

Most companies do a great job of marketing their companies to customers and shareholders but do very little, if any, marketing to prospective employees looking for opportunities. There should be a compelling story for both degreed and non-degreed people. Sell the positive changes like the present-day working conditions, culture and opportunity for those seeking a fulfilling career and providing a better life for their families. I see this as a huge opportunity but, as a group, we’ve been nearly invisible on this topic and that needs to change. Who in your company has the ball on this?

Read Larry’s full breakdown in IndustryWeek for more ideas on how to promote manufacturing careers. Together, we can all make a difference to help close the skills gap and fill jobs. Manufacturing is more enticing than ever. Learn more about careers at Dayton Rogers and what we can do for you.

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