Foreign investment in SC places new demands on marketers

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By Charles Richardson
senior writer/content strategist, FUEL

“South Carolina is just right for business, and plenty of international companies know it. Hundreds of foreign firms employ tens of thousands of residents throughout our state, creating wealth and helping make the communities they’re in sustainable.” –Bobby Hitt, South Carolina secretary of commerce

South Carolina has become an international breeding ground for advanced manufacturing, particularly in the automotive and aerospace industries. The state is home to major players such as Boeing, BMW, Volvo, Michelin, Daimler Chrysler, Continental Tire, and Bridgestone. What’s more, these behemoth brands are pulling in a long line of suppliers and manufacturers in their wake. There are hundreds of innovative, technology-driven manufacturing companies in the state to support these global leaders. Consider these numbers supplied by BusinessClimate: South Carolina is home to more than 180 aerospace-related companies that employ nearly 20,000 people. More than 250 automotive-related companies have operations in the state, including original equipment manufacturers and expansive tier-one and tier-two suppliers.

Reaching Millennials:
S.C. manufacturers need to attract young skilled workforce

With Foreign Direct Investment growing by leaps and bounds — with both OEM and tiered suppliers — there is an increasing demand for a skilled, ready workforce. As Bobby Hitt noted in 2016, we have “approximately 1,200 international establishments currently operating and employing more than 115,000 workers” in South Carolina. And that was two years ago — these numbers have doubtlessly grown. And as baby boomers continue to age out, the growing need must be filled by younger workers, primarily millennials. There’s just one problem: Millennials don’t aspire to manufacturing jobs.

Changing Perception:
Marketers must help solve the manufacturing image problem

There is a serious image problem within the manufacturing industry at large. The negative perception is it offers little gratification, and even less pay. As an article from the S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) points out, most people are misinformed about manufacturing jobs in today’s workforce.

“There’s a common misconception that manufacturing is dirty, dangerous, and not an ideal career choice,” says Channing Childers, with SCMEP.

The irony is that although manufacturing is vital to our quality of life and fiscal health, few parents are encouraging their kids to go into manufacturing — and even fewer kids are considering it in their own right.

“It is critical that we be able to change the perception of what today’s manufacturing jobs are like in South Carolina,” says Jody Bryson, president and CEO of the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center. “These aren’t simply jobs; these are good, in-demand careers that require advanced skill and specialization.”

Times Are A-Changing:
This Isn’t Your Grandparents’ Manufacturing

Bryson is right. These are some of the most desirable and high-paying jobs for young people entering the workforce. According to the SCMEP, manufacturing jobs pay two to four times (up to $80,000) as much as the median salary for millennials (under $20,000). These jobs also carry great benefits without the necessity of a four-year undergraduate degree. But few millennials (or parents) realize this.

Consider this: The manufacturing giants who have set up shop in South Carolina are global leaders. They are true influencers pushing the industry forward. They are quite literally on the cusp of technological innovation and research. As a result, these brands are in perpetual need of a young, dazzling, highly skilled, technologically savvy workforce at the ready. But the industry at large must do a better job marketing this story and making it part of an ongoing dialog with students.

Spreading the Word:
Marketing Takes Center Stage

For the first time, essentially, manufacturers are having to pay attention to marketing. Their success today depends on it, much more so than in the past. “Many B2B companies, especially manufacturing companies,” says FUEL President Warren Griffith, “have never marketed themselves before. They’ve never had to. But with changes in technology and the immediacy of the digital age that we live in, manufacturers are having to rethink not only how they reach customers but how they attract top talent and make manufacturing enticing and desirable with a younger potential workforce.”

The more savvy manufacturing companies are already leveraging this story in their marketing communications. They are creating strategic marketing plans designed to capitalize on, as well as bolster, the need for high-paying, benefit-heavy jobs that require only a year or two of technical college.

“In the past couple of years, we have seen a number of companies in a variety of B2B segments — manufacturing, automotive, industrial, advanced technology, you name it — who now recognize how critical it is to ‘tell their story’ by integrating digital media with more traditional marketing outlets. This is a big change for most of them,” Griffith says.

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