In case you hadn’t heard, the manufacturing industry is facing a crisis: a shortage of young, talented workers.
At first blush, that might seem a bit odd. After all, manufacturing is, and has been, one of the pillars of the labor market, employing millions and millions of people worldwide. However, manufacturers are finding that educated and talented Millennials do not see a future in this industry.
The impact of this trend could be devastating. A 2015 report from Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Manufacturing Institute predicted that as many as two million skilled manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in the United States over the next decade.
Manufacturers are responding to this impending labor shortage in very visible ways. General Electric, one of the world’s largest and most diversified manufacturers, this year launched a much-debated advertising campaign it called “What’s the Matter with Owen.”
In a series of television ads, viewers get to see the trials and tribulations of Owen, a soon-to-be-graduated college computer science student who has landed a job as a “developer” with GE. As he reveals this news to his roommates at college, or his family and friends, he finds that almost no one is impressed. He plaintively explains that he will be writing the code that will help manage complex transportation systems and power grids, or increase the efficiency of hospitals.
With a campaign geared exclusively to recruiting younger skilled labor, GE is confronting the reality that tech-savvy Millennials do not see manufacturing as a tech-savvy industry. Even though manufacturing is increasingly one of the most technology-dependent sectors in the labor market. So, one of the most successful companies in the world has decided to use humor to draw attention to the fact that yes, you can find a challenging career in technology in tried and tested GE.
Other large manufacturers are increasingly changing the way they recruit Millennials to make it clear they are connected to the leading edge of technology. GE has started employing virtual reality programs at job fairs that allow candidates to ride a diesel locomotive, or explore underwater oil-and-gas recovery machines. Other firms have started accepting job applications via mobile devices, while others are relying more and more on recruitment campaigns that rely heavily on video job postings.
It’s all geared towards one key, essential message: technology has affected every industry, and if you have a background in technology, you are needed almost everywhere.
On a go-forward basis, it will serve tech-savvy job seekers well to expand their searches and consider that technology has so many more applications than, well, smartphone applications.