This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s Assembly Line: Creative Recruitment to Bring in Young Manufacturing Talent


Manufacturing was once the cornerstone of a middle-class lifestyle...the American Dream. A high-paying union job that would allow you all the comforts of life: a house, a car, a vacation every year, and even college for your kids.

Today, perception has changed. While manufacturing got more high-tech, its reputation was tarnished. Even though manufacturing jobs still pay relatively high and come with more benefits than most jobs offer, they don't rank high on the list of career choices for young people. How did this happen?

This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s Assembly Line: Creative Recruitment to Bring in Young Manufacturing Talent

The Perception Problem

Manufacturing is suffering from an image issue. Between sensationalist news stories of plants closing and the demonization of unions (often to score political points), manufacturing in general has taken a beating in public perception.

Part of the perception problem is rooted in fact and education. Between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. lost 5.7 million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing companies went under. It may seem like too much of a gamble to consider a career in an industry that took such a huge hit. At that same time, high schools on tight budgets have culled elective shop programs that once allowed kids to build necessary skills.

Unfortunately, now that manufacturing is starting to make a comeback, the workers aren't there to fill the jobs. There's an alarming shortage of engineers, skilled tradesmen and IT workers in the manufacturing industry, and it's time for manufacturers to step up and change their image.

Attracting Millennials

With the workforce aging and young people choosing different directions, U.S. manufacturing could be in trouble. We need to show young people that manufacturing is as cool as gaming. In fact, manufacturing has a lot of similarities to gaming, except at the end, your achievements create something people can actually use.

Shifting perceptions isn't easy, but some companies already have a jump on it. Caterpillar, for example, is building engaging content geared to attracting customers and potential employees. Landscaping and construction equipment may not seem very sexy, but Caterpillar manages to tap into viewers' passions with clever, entertaining videos that demonstrate precision, ease of operation and performance.

The “Built For It Trials - Stack: Largest JENGA® Game Played with Cat® Excavators” video has more than 2.5 million views to date. Now that's exciting. Check this out:

For potential employees, the message of the Built For It campaign is clear: Driving a Caterpillar takes skill and precision—so it’s more than just a grimy, entry-level job. For customers, Caterpillar shows its equipment has the versatility to perform even the most delicate jobs.

Changing the Narrative

Launching a successful recruiting campaign for millennials means peaking their interest and showing off the cool side of manufacturing: 3D modeling, robotics and complicated programming.

Manufacturing, almost by definition, sounds repetitive and boring. Gen Y Millennials want to know their jobs will not be routine—they want to know they’ll be met with constant challenges. Show young manufacturing talent the intricacies of the work and the upward trajectory of their jobs. They are innovators. Present your company as one open to new ideas and receptive to input.

Millennials are natural collaborators. They grew up in constant communication with their peers, so they crowdsource every decision from dinner to life choices. Use your content to stress the teamwork aspect of your business and you tap right into their comfort zone.

When you change your narrative, you put a fresh new face on your company. If you can change the way young prospects view your company, you can attract and retain top talent.

By 2015, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce will be Millennials, and by 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.

You need them. Take your company image from stodgy to innovative, dynamic and exciting to lock in your top talent today.