Gen Z Warms to Manufacturing Jobs, But Misperceptions Persist
New research from Parsable reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic improved how Generation Z views the importance of frontline manufacturing to the country. But, work still needs to be done to convince this generation – many now entering the workforce for the first time – that manufacturing offers a technologically advanced, financially rewarding and future-focused career path.
In a survey of 1,000 recently graduated U.S.-based respondents aged 18-24 years old, 56% said their views on manufacturing changed because of the pandemic; of those, 77% said they believe manufacturing is more important to the country than they previously thought.
More than half (54%) said they had not considered frontline manufacturing as a possible job opportunity before the pandemic; of those, 24% are now open to the idea.
Despite this, overall, the majority (52%) remain disinterested or neutral in frontline manufacturing work; of those, 30% are concerned it might be a “low-skilled, manual job.”
For many, the belief that manufacturing companies don’t pay as much as other fields is potentially preventing them from taking the next step. When assessing priorities in selecting a career, 64% said “good pay” was a top priority – more important than benefits, growth opportunities and “interesting work,” among others.
The majority (65%) believe that an entry-level manufacturing position pays less than the industry average for all entry-level jobs (approximately $40,000 annually). In reality, someone in manufacturing with up to one year of experience averages a salary of $60,000 annually, according to Glassdoor.
For manufacturers, one possible solution to shift these misperceptions is to partner with schools – high schools, vocational 2-year programs and 4-year universities – and provide real-world opportunities for students to learn more about manufacturing. Of those surveyed, 59% said they might be interested in manufacturing if they had access to related programs while in school; however, more than half (53%) said they didn’t have any exposure.
Programs like the World Economic Forum’s New Generation Industry Leaders are directly aimed at providing opportunities for young, emerging leaders to learn, connect and inspire others to join the manufacturing field. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and its Creators Wanted initiative is also working at the ground level to show the reality of modern manufacturing careers, encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders.
Lawrence Whittle, Parsable CEO and member of the World Economic Forum, said:
“Parsable’s research shows significant discrepancies between the perception of manufacturing among new job candidates and the reality of today’s factory environment. Potential employees, both high school and college graduates, want jobs with a meaningful and rewarding future, including a good salary and the ability to have modern technologies at their fingertips for onboarding, training and professional development. The industry needs to highlight and educate our younger generations on the reality of frontline manufacturing work, which is actually very advanced and future-focused, in order to attract the best and brightest candidates.”