Marketing Manufacturing To The Next Generation

Blog Post By:Rob Hawse

“We need your help, because manufacturing has an image problem.”

From an open letter to parents from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and G.B. “Bud” Peterson, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Advanced Manufacturing 2.0 steering committee member, asking parents to encourage their children to consider a career in modern manufacturing, published recently in U.S. News and World Report.

In it, they say that while 70 percent of Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong economy and national defense, only 30 percent of parents encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.

That’s because in the minds of most Americans, the thought of manufacturing still conjures up a newsreel image of a dark and dirty environment, an ever-quickening assembly line, and mind numbingly repetitive jobs for low pay, among other things, all unpleasant.

World leader in CNC machine tools Okuma America (client) just posted a piece on this as well that contains links to a video from NAM on just how disconnected the younger generation is from the value and impact of manufacturing.

Watch the featured video, “What Manufacturing Means to America”

You and I know the most successful manufacturing facilities in the United States today are now brightly lit, obsessively clean gleaming showrooms filled with machines running the latest technologies. Machines engineered, configured, repaired and managed by highly skilled and well-paid professionals.

To change this perception there needs to be a concerted effort by manufacturing organizations to drive this information out into their local communities, consistently over a period of time.


Here are three things your manufacturing organization can do that will improve the image of manufacturing overall and simultaneously enable you to raise your profile with local business and community leaders and to capture the imaginations of local young people. A new generation that will remember your organization whether they aim to work for you, or are eventually in a position to purchase from you.

1. Offer a Walking Tour of Your Facility.

We talk about how effective the crafted walking tour is for prospects and influencers in this blog post. However, you might also consider the lasting impression a tour would make on kids from the local elementary school, especially if the factory projects a modern image and is full of machines that do cool things. In this era of digital everything, to show a kid how to print something fun, or how to manipulate a robotic arm can create a wow factor that in some kids is enough to ignite the flame that will take them toward the manufacturing path.

A classroom visit could be newsworthy, especially if it involves a demonstration of new technology that people have not seen before.

2. Appoint and train education ambassadors.

If you are looking to cultivate interest in manufacturing as a career, it’s never too soon to start connecting with high school students. This is a critical time where they are working with their guidance counselors and figuring out what they want to do and what kind of education is required.

A conversation with well-trained recent graduate who is happy with their choice to work in manufacturing can bring forward opportunities the student (and their parents) might not have considered before.

3. Give people a reason to engage with you.

Provide helpful content on your website that speaks to the concerns of potential members of your workforce, as well as their parents and guidance counselors. Consider adding content that connects with the local teaching community to spur interest in field trips and summer camps. Who knows, some of these young engineers may become guest bloggers strategically sharing the perspective of your industry through the lens of the younger generation (I’m betting your customers would enjoy reading that).


If the manufacturing industry truly is the most important industry for strong economy, we need to invest in its future now by attracting young people with strong minds into the talent pipeline.

I invite you to contribute to this process by inspiring our youth through providing them access to today’s manufacturing environment, technology and possibilities, so that we can all enjoy the dividends in years to come.

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