Changing the Perception of
Changing the Perception of Manufacturing Careers
The stories about American manufacturing in the media today are still a mix of stereotypes and challenges and public perceptions of the industry reflect the lack of a cohesive picture of this key piece of the American economy. Despite data that shows steady growth over the past decade, a survey of 1,000 individuals in the Fall of 2018 found that over 55% believed manufacturing was either “stable but weak” or “declining.”
More troubling was that only half of survey respondents viewed manufacturing as “high tech” and 35% believed robotics and automation would have a detrimental effect on the industry. While the industry definitely faces many challenges, manufacturing leaders need to actively address public perception of manufacturing to compete for skilled workers now and in the future.
Telling the Right Stories
Too often, manufacturers get caught up in talking about the specific items their business makes and miss out on connecting the work their employees do to a larger effort. At an industry conference in late 2017, Dan Turner, vice president of global talent and sourcing at Kelly Services, talked about how he learned to make manufacturing jobs more exciting to elementary school students.
Turner said in his first presentation he talked about simply about recruiting people and helping employ more people – and bored the students. In his next presentation he told students the story of “how I find people that make the macaroni and cheese you eat” and was the hero of career day. Older students and adults may not need things broken down that simply, but manufacturers may find it easier to increase interest in their business if they connect what they do to an end product their audience has used, or at least heard of.
October 4, 2019 is the date for the next Manufacturing Day and is a great opportunity to tell your story. The National Association of Manufacturers and Manufacturing Institute has put together a great website and the summer is a great time to begin planning for the event. Field research conducted after past events has shown that the public outreach efforts have a major positive impact on perceptions of manufacturing. Even if you don’t host an event, think about how you might lead a tour of your factory talking up the benefits of working there while showing how you make your products.
Cleaning Up Our Act
One of the stories that needs to be shared more is how the technology that is changing the industry is changing the jobs available in manufacturing. The same study that showed an uneven perception of the types of jobs also found 38% of respondents felt there was “poor job security/stability” and 38% believed the jobs had low pay. While it may be hard to compete with allure of high paying tech jobs on the East and West coasts, manufacturing leaders need to talk more about the opportunities provided by their industry than the challenges.
If your only exposure to manufacturing is television news, it is hard to see the industry as anything but under siege and struggling. Being a continuous booster of not only your company but the entire industry can help with public perceptions and the attitudes of your employees (a great source of referrals and an important shaper of public perceptions as well). Whether talking to friends, parents at school or sports events, or other groups you and your employees can help shape public perceptions about your company and the industry as a whole.
Developing a positive story of your business and the industry, taking every opportunity to tell your story, and creating events that get your story in front of interested community leaders, parents, and students can help continue improving perceptions of manufacturing.
Triple Helix has provided data and information systems for the aerospace and manufacturing industries for the last 15 years and has helped many operations adopt new technology and develop new processes. Contact us if you would like to schedule a risk-free consultation to see if Triple Helix can help your company assess its digitization opportunities.
About The Author: Jason Bittner
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