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It’s no secret that manufacturing jobs have fallen from popularity in America’s recent history. The oft romanticized era when manufacturing was the principle player in America’s economy realistically ended in the early 1980s. Many more Americans began to seek higher education in pursuit of jobs in the white-collar sector or in growing industries like technology. However, the massive recession of 2007-2009 left many young Americans disillusioned by the promises of baby boomers that higher education was a guaranteed path to a lucrative, secure career. College tuition rates were rising, employment was plummeting, and graduates found themselves in a market flooded by their peers without enough jobs to keep them all afloat. Consequently, much of America’s youth were barred from entry to the professional workforce completely, and those who did manage to make their way in were placed in entry-level positions for little pay (sometimes minimum wage!) Once the economy had regained some of its footing, those who had been shut out from the professional sector finally received their shot to put their degree to use.

Only…they didn’t get the chance. Young people in America were still working the same low paying jobs, without any benefits to compensate. They were treated as drones with no valuable skills. And they were still drowning in student loans. So, many swore off corporate work altogether. Now, manufacturing employers stand a chance to attract many talented young Americans to jobs they may not have previously considered. What would it take to make these careers attractive?

One of the most standout traits of manufacturing careers is the ability to meaningfully contribute to a team where ideas are shared to improve a process. At Strong Hold, we have weekly meetings with our divisions to discuss continuous improvement ideas to make our processes more efficient. These ideas are entirely generated by our employees and shift leaders, making for a bottom-up approach to company improvement. We’re very proud that most of our improvement ideas come from our employees of their own initiative; it indicates to us that we are creating a culture where people feel valued and care deeply about the quality of their work. The philosophy behind this comes from kaizen, 5S, and lean manufacturing principles. This kind of collaborative spirit is very attractive to young Americans; as one myself, Strong Hold has been an incredibly attractive place to work.

Then there’s good old-fashioned advancement through hard work. Much of America’s youth feels as though hard work can’t get you where it used to in the professional workplace. However, manufacturing companies can attract young people by making sure their hard work pays off. In fact, one of Strong Hold’s vice-presidents started his career over twenty years ago on the shop floor!

In all, manufacturing companies are in a prime position to attract young new employees to their workforce. It would be unwise to squander the opportunity!