Everyone worries about manufacturing jobs. The topic comprises talking points for politicians. Economists can’t figure out jobs and wages (but they can’t figure out much with all their differential equations and such but never actually working anywhere). Manufacturing management is worried about filling all the openings caused by retirements.

Oh, and young people wonder about whether manufacturing is a good career that will pay off financially in the future.

As coincidence would happen–I just received news of two research reports on this very topic. The first is from an interesting organization called Leading2Lean (L2L). If you are sick of hearing about Millennials like my Gen Y son is, then this survey about Gen Z will get you going. Following this survey is research by McKinsey that I saw reported in my Axios newsletter.

We do need to be mindful of recruiting talented young people into manufacturing. People in general know the importance of manufacturing to the economy, but few consider it while making individual career decisions.

“Generation Z to The Rescue as Manufacturing Faces a ‘Silver Tsunami’ “

A new survey conducted by Leading2Lean (L2L)reveals that there is an unlikely hope for a new generation of workers that will spur industry-wide innovation.

The 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index, an annual measurement of the American public’s perceptions of U.S. manufacturing, found that adults in Generation Z (those aged 18-22) are 19% more likely to have had a counselor, teacher or mentor suggest they look into manufacturing as a viable career option when compared to the general population. One-third (32%) of Generation Z has had manufacturing suggested to them as a career option, as compared to only 18% of Millennials and 13% of the general population.

Better still, the survey also found that Generation Z is intrigued by careers in manufacturing. They are 7% more likely to consider working in the manufacturing industry and 12% less likely to view the manufacturing industry as being in decline, both compared against the general population. These findings may be in relation to Generation Z having a larger exposure to the industry compared to previous generations with one-third (32%) having family members or friends working in the manufacturing industry, compared to 19% for Millennials and 15% for the general population.

“For many years, manufacturing has struggled to introduce and entice new workers to the industry,” said Keith Barr, President and CEO of L2L, the lean manufacturing software company behind the survey. “The industry has failed to compete with technology for their interest. Unfortunately, the industry hasn’t fully explained the dynamic, technology-driven environment of the modern plant floor. With Gen Z just moving into the workforce, we need to encourage their participation in modern manufacturing. If we don’t, I’m afraid the industry will be hit with the negative effects of the Silver Tsunami.”

According to the latest government data, there are now 522,000 open manufacturing jobs in the United States (an all-time high), and a recent report from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute (the National Association of Manufacturer’s social-impact arm) projects that 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled over the next decade.

Unfortunately, vast misconceptions about the industry persist. For example, the 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index revealed that over half (53%) of the general population assumes the average salary of a mid-level manufacturing manager is under $60,000. In reality, the average salary for a manufacturing manager in 2018 was $118,500, according to IndustryWeek.

Leading2Lean though has reason to believe that the industry is making positive moves towards a better-informed public. Last year’s 2018 Leading2Lean Manufacturing Index measured that 70% of people believed that the American manufacturing industry was in decline. When the same question was asked in this year’s survey, only 54% of people believed the industry is in decline, showcasing a surprisingly better understanding of the present state of the industry.

Education is the key, and it is an area that manufacturing continues to struggle in. When surveyed about alternative types of education, the 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index found that a vast 75% of people have never had a counselor, teacher or mentor suggest they look into attending trade or vocational school as a viable career option. The number was slightly lower with Generation Z (59%) and Millennials (67%), but still showcases an extreme disconnect in consideration of alternatives outside of traditional 4-year institutions.

When surveyed about the likeability and availability of work, 54% of Generation Z respondents agreed that there is a shortage of skilled manufacturing workers in the U.S., and 43% agreed that manufacturing jobs are an attractive option to younger workers and the next generation of workers. A majority (59%) of Generation Z also agreed that trade schools offer promising career opportunities for high school students graduating in 2019.

Generation Z grew up in the midst of the Great Recession, watched their older peers accumulate student debt, then struggle to pay it off with low-paying jobs right out of college. They are seeking higher paid jobs in a more transparent and open learning environment, and they’re increasingly open to alternative types of education and training. Barr believes manufacturing jobs can meet their needs and provide the diverse and rewarding work experience they crave.

Click the link to learn more about the 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index.

Think polarization and inequality are bad now?

  • Buckle up: Axios’ Kim Hart writes that big cities are poised to get bigger, richer and more powerful — at the expense of the rest of America, a report out later today from McKinsey Global Institute will show.

Why it matters: Automation may end up adding more jobs than it destroys, but the McKinsey analysis of 315 cities and more than 3,000 counties shows that only the healthiest local economies will be able to adapt to the coming disruption.

  • Wide swaths of the country, especially already-distressed rural regions, are in danger of shedding more jobs.
  • The 25 most prosperous cities, which have led the recovery from the Great Recession, are poised to get stronger.
  • Those megacities could claim at least 60% of job growth through 2030. 

The big picture: The labor market will become more polarized, according to McKinsey’s 113-page “The future of work in America.”

  • On one end of the spectrum are a few dozen successful cities with diversified economies and a lot of young, highly educated workers.
  • On the other end are “trailing” cities and rural regions with aging workforces, lower education levels and jobs that are highly susceptible to automation.

Between those extremes is a group of thriving niche cities, such as Sunbelt cities popular with retiring baby boomers and college towns.

  • There’s also a broader “mixed middle,” including stable cities like St. Louis and unique economies like Lancaster, Pa. 
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