Younger generations need support in industry to take up manufacturing roles

Finding suitable staff to fill positions in manufacturing is becoming increasingly harder for some companies who are expressing concern over a young workforce that is steering clear of the industry. Speaking at the AUSPACK Business and Industry Conference, held on March 26-27 in Melbourne, a panel discussed a lack of interest from younger generations in taking up manufacturing careers.

Zi-Argus operations manager, Richard Roberts, highlighted that part of the problem is that younger generations who are stepping into manufacturing roles may not feel heard. He said the younger generations “can’t get buy-in from upper management”.

In a culture were generations such as Millennials want to grow in their careers, the panel said it can be a matter of management not adopting new strategies and listening to what younger employees have to say.

ABB Robotics global industry segment manager, Alan Spreckley, said one of the reasons young people are not interested in manufacturing is because of the style of management in some workplaces. “It’s attracting these people into the manufacturing areas that’s the biggest issue.

“I think it’s very important for all people that they are listened to, and they can make a difference, and that their opinions matter,” said Spreckley.

He explained that leadership needed to listen to people as well as teach them valuable skills that will benefit the workplace. “Young people will see change coming as well and will have to adapt.”

Learning to adapt and take on new challenges is encouraged from both management and younger generations who value a working culture that allows them to grow. A Deloitte Millennial Survey from 2018 – Are Millennials Losing Faith in Business? – highlighted that Australian millennials believe culture is more important than money. Of the 10,455 millennials across 36 countries, including 337 in Australia, 67 per cent rated a positive work environment as the most important consideration when choosing a new employer. Globally this figure also stood at more than half at 52 per cent.

These findings are in line with opinions shared by the panel at the AUSPACK Business and Industry Conference. Lighthouse Systems director, Paul Barber, said his company has experienced operational people having aspirations to implement new processes, which when listened to can have a positive outcome on the business. He spoke about employees encouraging the implementation of Industry 4.0-driven solutions. “What we’ve seen is once an organisation has adopted an element of that, there’s a natural appetite for more. Once people find it helpful to take it on-board, its self-fulfilling,” said Barber.

He explained that all businesses have high expectations to live up to as “the world is more demanding than it’s ever been before”. The panel indicated that ensuring younger generations are part of the growing manufacturing industry worldwide is key to growing organisations.