Keys to a thriving manufacturing industry

Changing perceptions and connecting with Generation Z will recruit needed talent

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By Tina Zwolinski, CEO, ZWO

Even as the manufacturing industry grows in this country, six out of 10 positions go unfilled, according to the L2L Manufacturing Index. The deficit is fueled by the estimate that around 70% of baby boomers will be retired by 2030. A low unemployment rate of 4% further contributes to the statewide difficulty in securing a talent pipeline.

Expanding awareness, changing perceptions

According to Kronos HR, only 17% of Americans view manufacturing as a viable career choice, in part because many are not familiar with manufacturing as a career choice. Manufacturing has been stuck with a decades-old stigma that includes the perception that the industry has low salary limitations, poor job security, narrow career prospects, and a dirty factory setting.

Connecting with a new generation

Generation Z (those born 1995 through 2010) is now entering the workforce at 61 million strong. Manufacturing only needs to attract 3 to 4 million of them to fill the available jobs over the next decade. The challenge today — only 27 percent of Gen Z would consider working in the manufacturing industry, according to the L2L Manufacturing Index.

The solution lies in using the right message to boost awareness about possible careers. It will eliminate the industry stigma, and offer information on educational and career pathways for lifelong industry engagement.

Gen Z is the right target audience. They are concerned about college debt, are open to alternative educational choices, and enjoy learning under mentors in their field. They embrace technology so today’s automated environment fits their workstyle. Although manufacturing salaries are strong, culture and opportunity drive their decisions.

To reach and attain Gen Z, companies, economic development agencies, and government must embrace social media and YouTube channels, and use augmented and virtual reality as well as employ game-design elements in order to communicate and train effectively.

“Building a healthy, aware, and engaged workforce pipeline is a huge priority for our region, both for existing companies and as we look to new opportunities on the horizon,” says John Lummus, president and CEO of the Upstate SC Alliance.


Tina Zwolinski is the CEO of ZWO, a national branding firm headquartered in Greenville. She has worked within the manufacturing industry through corporations, economic development organizations, and technical schools. For more than 20 years she has helped brands reach youth markets, including millennials and GenZ.

Find out more at zwoworkforce.com.

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