Manufacturing: Breaking the Mold

What does the word “manufacturing” bring to mind? It might not be the first industry graduates think of when considering their first job. However, there’s lots of excitement in the industry right now. In July 2022, employment in manufacturing grew by 33,000 jobs and the growth potential is high in the years to come. As companies continue to migrate manufacturing to North America, there will be more job openings than qualified talent to fill them. To address these gaps, manufacturing companies need to focus on recruiting and training new talent.

There are many ways to recruit talent. Some companies go with traditional methods, like college job fairs. Other companies get more creative. One Fortune 100 manufacturing company qualified 325 job candidates using an artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbot. It doesn’t matter how a company recruits talent, as long as they find ways to reach a wider audience. It’s important for companies to also focus on developing talent and allowing them to explore their various interests.

Training the Next Generation with Emerging Tech and Equipment

Lorain County Community College (LCCC) is a public community college in Elyria, Ohio, with a student population of 13,000. In 2013, they created an associate degree of applied science in mechatronics to provide U.S. manufacturers with a pipeline of skilled workers. The college partners with over 80 different Northeast Ohio microelectronics companies and global manufacturing companies, including Panasonic Connect North America, to provide students with hands-on training. Students work with materials, equipment, protocols and processes related to the microelectronics industry. Through the program, students learn skills to prepare them for an entry-level technician role, including:

  • Micro-electromechanical systems.
  • Sensor and microcircuit operation.
  • Material and size constraints.
  • Microelectronic packaging.
  • Printed circuit design.
  • Manufacturing.
  • Project management.

As manufacturers invest in advanced analytics, modeling and simulation, and the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s important that students understand the technology as much as the equipment used by manufacturers. Exposure shows students the value of innovation and agility. For example, automation and IoT enable manufacturers to keep up with demand and manage challenges by boosting productivity and capturing data that shows how to make processes more efficient. Working with mobile solutions also provides real-time visibility into supply chain operations, as well as the reporting tools to maintain compliance. Technology creates transformational growth in manufacturing, so it’s important for students to understand their positive impact on the industry.

Through hands-on training, college students can gain invaluable experience to prepare for a manufacturing job: 80% of current students at LCCC are gaining real-world experience through co-ops with more than 70 local employers. And 100% of program graduates have been hired into the manufacturing industry.

Mentoring is a Must

Mentoring also allows students to develop the soft skills needed to secure their first job or grow in their careers. A recent article in Harvard Business Review made the case for mandatory mentoring programs. While more than 70% of the Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring to their employees, research found that these programs were most effective when mandatory — encouraging participation from the ground up. Entry-level employees, especially first-generation college graduates, need guidance.

Organizations like Braven assist first-generation and underrepresented students, providing them with the tools to succeed in the workforce. By partnering with large universities and companies, Braven matches mentees with mentors in their industry of interest.

However everyone deserves a mentor, whether through an internal company program or an external organization. It’s not just about understanding one’s job, but knowing how to present oneself in a professional environment. Understanding what’s appropriate to wear, how to speak confidently and other soft skills can help someone throughout their career. Mentors can work closely with mentees to create an open line of communication and transparency. While mentors can provide guidance to their mentees, it’s up to the mentee to decide what they want from their mentor relationship. At the very least, the mentor and mentee should agree on how often to meet and lay out clear goals for the mentee. For entry-level learners applying to their first career, they may need help preparing their job application. Mentors can work with their mentees on building a resume, practicing mock interviews and writing a strong cover letter to strengthen their application.

Mentoring is important no matter what industry an employee works in. It helps prepare the next generation’s workforce grow their careers and gives them people to look up to along the way.