The 21st Century Workforce Dilemma

Manufacturing organizations face a dilemma with their younger workforce. According to a recent survey, the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, Millennial's and Gen Z’s only intend to stay in their new jobs for a very short period of time. (Millennials are defined as being born between 1985 and 1994. Gen Z’s are defined as being born between 1995 and 2001.) At the same time, this group of employees indicates in the survey that they are unprepared to perform in the Industry 4.0 jobs of the future.

The obvious dilemma here is how can manufacturing organizations justify investing in the education and training of these new employees for Industry 4.0 jobs if they do not intend to stay with the company.

The report surveyed 10,455 millennial's and 1,844 Gen Z’s. In the survey 43% of millennial's indicated their intent to leave their job within two (2) years. A higher amount of Gen Z’s, 61% percent, indicated that they intend to leave their jobs within that two (2) year period. At the same time, 64% of millennial's and 58% of Gen Z’s indicated that their organizations were not helping them understand and prepare for Industry 4.0 jobs.

(I do wonder if the question of Industry 4.0 was understood by the survey participants. My unscientific and brief survey of these age groups is that I have yet to find a millennial or Gen Z who had heard of Industry 4.0, let alone understood the requirements for jobs dealing with Industry 4.0.)

It would seem that the way to solve this dilemma is to educate and train these individuals outside of the manufacturing organization and ideally, before they enter the work force. An obvious candidate for that approach are the universities and colleges. However, these institutions have historically two problems: they lag behind industry in incorporating technical advancements and they have little involvement with manufacturing, if they deal with manufacturing at all.

One path forward is for manufacturing organizations to become more actively involved with the universities and colleges that they hire from. Manufacturing organizations on the advisory boards should push to ensure that courses offered are relevant to 21st century manufacturing. That even is not enough. The syllabi that support those courses needs to be vetted for topics and material covered, such as Industry 4.0.

This will not be easy as there is a great deal of inertia in the university system. However, as I have said repeatedly, we need to educate 21st century students for 21st century jobs with 21st century methodologies and tools. 

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Dr Michael GrievesBy Dr. Michael Grieves 

Dr. Michael Grieves is the Executive Director and a Research Professor the Florida Institute of Technology Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Innovative Design (CAMID). With extensive experience in major entrepreneurial technology and manufacturing companies, he is a renowned expert in PLM and originated the concept of the Digital Twin.