Attracting Gen Z to Manufacturing

With an aging workforce and hundreds of thousands of jobs to fill, experts say the industry will need to offer flexibility and clear career paths.

In an industry where the median age of workers is 44-years-old, manufacturers are increasingly turning to the next generation in the hopes of solving their labor constraint woes. 

Businesses, however, face an uphill battle, with workers ages 16 to 24-years-old making up only 8% of the manufacturing workforce in 2021.

In a competitive labor market, Gen Z workers are demanding strong wages, more flexibility and clear upward mobility, pushing companies to adjust their job offerings and opportunities to meet young people where they’re at. 

Gen Z doesn’t just want a job, they want a career

When trying to attract young workers, one of the biggest hurdles manufacturers face is showing Gen Z recruits the clear career path that awaits them in the industry, said Patrick O’Rahilly, founder of manufacturing recruitment platform Factory Fix. 

“You have to sell them on the potential career path and what can come next . . .Because usually the actual job is not going to be super glamorous or super impactful. Manufacturing is one of those industries where you have a slow growth curve,” O’Rahilly said.

The earning potential in manufacturing is clear. For example, while the average machinery manufacturing annual wage for assemblers and fabricators, common entry-level positions, is $40,950, among management occupations it’s $135,330, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s that kind of data that could also help the industry continue to overcome its longstanding perception problem as an industry lacking in competitive salaries or technology.