Manufacturing with Our New Generation: Let’s Get Real

“I’ve had five managers in three years of employment at this company. I feel that I have talents that are going to waste and sitting idle because of lack of leadership and organizational focus.”

How would you feel if one of the young engineers in your company had the courage to tell you that?

Would you be surprised?

Would you be offended?

Would you be intrigued?

The coolest thing about being so engaged in revitalizing the manufacturing industry is that our young generation has also started to follow what I have to say. They are very interested in getting my perspective on some of the challenges they face.Let’s get real.

We put so much emphasis on attracting our Millennials into the manufacturing industry that we forget about those who already work there. Many are deeply dissatisfied and feel disconnected. As a result, the probability that they are looking for other opportunities outside this industry is high.

The opening statement in this article is from a young Manufacturing Engineer who recently reached out to me. He told me that he knew from a very young age that he wanted to get into the manufacturing industry and be an engineer. This was almost entirely because of the mentorship he received from his grandfather who was a tool and die maker and who had a small workshop in the San Francisco area. This young man  grew up working with his grandfather  from the time he was five years old. This childhood experience left a great impression on him as to what  could be created with  imagination, knowledge and the right skills.

In his own words:

“I have to say that from my family’s perspective my only option after high school was to go to college. I tried to look into apprenticeship programs for machining trades but never really found any, and I honestly don’t know if my parents would have approved of it. It is likely they would have opposed that sort of educational path since they were both college graduates, but since this never directly came up, I don’t know for sure. However, since neither of my parents work in technical fields their take was that the only way to get by in life was with a 4-year degree.

As soon as I started to look for colleges I knew I wanted to become an engineer and more specifically a manufacturing engineer. Positively influenced by my grandfather, I got into this field not only for the joy and excitement of applying my physical and mental skills, but also for the creative aspect. I wanted to actually create tangible things, meet goals, solve problems and do good for the world. This to me is the core reason I love manufacturing so much because when done right, all these things apply. I think in my professional career I’ve tried to at least project these ideals to the people I work with. I have tried to recreate what I  experienced working with my grandfather, and try to find this in my employers. I realize the importance of leading myself and sharing what I do with kids in the community. I had the benefit of mentors besides my grandfather and know that I have a responsibility to do the same for others when the opportunities arise. While I’ve been disappointed at times in my career since these sorts of ideals seem to get lost in the day-to-day problems of most businesses, I try to look past that and at least foster learning, collaboration, creativity and competent execution in the areas that I can control. From my experiences, competent leadership must instill these ideals for a successful and productive business environment to exist.

An analogy to best describe my current situation at work is that we’ve been given the best F1 race car with a top notch driver, but no racetrack to drive it on or competitions to use it in. We’ve been given the ability to buy really great equipment, and we’ve got some really knowledgeable and talented people, but the infrastructure and focus hasn’t been established to allow us to put all of this into full effect to really make any big wins. It feels like we may be on the cusp of a breakthrough for success, but it also feels like we are going to have to fight through the bad legacy of a lack of leadership to get there.

My twenty-something generation has been exposed to so many different opportunities and options for life paths and we are still on the hunt for new opportunities even if we may already have stability and by any measure a great career and a prosperous life.

In my opinion, there is a ying and yang element to this. So many of us may have this take on life that there is always something better, there are always continuous improvements to be made with anything.”

My conversation with this young man was so enlightening that I wanted to share his thoughts and ideas with anyone who is interested in deepening his or her understanding and appreciation for this new generation.

I am not sure about you but when I grew up, the older generation lacked an understanding of my generation as well. I believe it is up to the older generation to develop this understanding and appreciation.

Our Millennials are not interested in a bottom line that only shows profit. They recognize that there is much more to life than that. They care about people and our planet. They will work hard, but it won’t only be work for the sake of work. They are ready, willing and able to look for better and more efficient ways of doing things if we will only let them.

Shouldn’t this give us hope for the future?

This article was published on the Manufacturing Revival Radio website.

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