Older generations like Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are retiring, leaving young people to rise up and fill the gaps. It’s the natural way of the world, but there are some noticeable gaps in the labor and construction industries.
At least 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in the coming decade and manufacturing executives are hungry for young talent. With all these openings and promising careers on the line, why aren’t young people gravitating toward skilled labor industries? Societal stigmas and trends may be keeping students away, but there are clear opportunities to foster growth, excitement and innovation for these young people far into the future.
In short, labor industries often get a negative connotation. American cultural trends push college degrees and office jobs as the norm, shutting out trade careers as viable options. In fact, a recent study found only 20% of parents see manufacturing as a career option for their children.
In reality, many in the skilled crafts are well-educated and make good wages. The concept of a degree denoting someone’s worth is also antiquated — trade industries are just as honorable and skilled as office jobs.
Furthermore, construction and manufacturing industries are overflowing with cutting-edge technological advancements, innovative AI integration and creative decision-making. A common misconception is that manufacturing jobs are dirty, loud and rough around the edges. On the contrary, tech-focused tasks and advancements are precisely the kind of savvy and innovative workplace young people are looking for.
Finally, safety concerns are certainly present. Every year, one out of every 10 workers in construction fields faces injuries or harm on the job. This could include being struck by objects or electrical dangers. While a valid concern, labor industries are also at the forefront of training in everything from proper dress codes to vehicle safety and heavy lifting techniques so workers remain fit and healthy.
Enticing young people to the exciting construction and manufacturing world is the key to the future. Their tech skills, fresh energy and new ideas will bring added strength to the industry like never before, so it’s vital to combat these stigmas and get to the heart of what excites Gen Z.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best way to excite students about labor industries is to chat with them. High schools and colleges welcome employer visits all the time, and many of these students are already looking for their future paths. When school safety standards allow, companies can present equipment demonstrations or take students on facility tours.
Offering internships or shadowing opportunities also encourages young people to explore their future in a more hands-on way. Seeing the truth of a construction career directly erases those negative societal stigmas.
There are many paths for students even after deciding on construction. A construction management degree can lead to a management or specialized technician position, such as:
Not everyone looks for a college degree and there are opportunities for innovative trade industries that offer other training options as well. Visiting high schools and offering an honest look into what the future could hold right after graduation is enticing for a lot of young adults. Their careers could explore:
With open communication and the whole picture, students are even more likely to dive into the exciting world of manufacturing and other trade industries.
Across all industries, young people are looking for better benefits. They want to feel their jobs promote good deeds in the world, as well as growth and innovation internally.Construction companies should promote and act upon their mission statements. Could the team volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity project or donate unused materials to different wellness organizations? How do sustainability and green energy integrate into the future of the business?
Internally, company culture should entice employees to give frequent feedback and promote positivity. People spend their lives how they spend their days — for most people, that means being at work. Work should feel like a positive and encouraging place to grow and learn for all employees. Focusing on these key factors is sure to spark enthusiasm:
The most enticing industries are also human-focused and diverse. Gen Z continually places equity and inclusion as top priorities when choosing a workplace. In historically male-dominated sectors like construction and manufacturing, this is more important than ever. In fact, only 14% of all construction workers are women.
To foster diversity in hiring, ensure visits to schools and internships target all students, not just the male population. Implementation of focus groups and subconscious bias training should also be mandatory for all seasoned and brand-new employees. Larger companies can also explore partnerships with Minority Business Enterprise businesses to network and foster a diverse workforce.
Promoting safety standards and reinforcing training is another key to building relationships with younger people. Safety concerns are probably the most pressing issue for many people, so advertising standards to interested students and continually training internally will directly improve the safety of everyone.
Companies should post safety checklists outlining electricity, hazardous materials, lifting and equipment guidelines. Scheduled training operations also offer opportunities to refamiliarize workers with standards and OSHA violations.
Many injuries occur due to fatigue and human error, so companies must instill the importance of rest and proper breaks in their team as well. A break room and a decent time-off program can help here.
Despite the stigma, labor industries offer a wealth of innovation, excitement and new growth opportunities. Getting in touch with young students and professionals and promoting key benefits is the best way to draw them in and build a strengthened industry for the future.