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Attracting the 21st Century Workforce

How can we bring more people into rewarding manufacturing careers in Ohio? That question is at the heart of solving this workforce development challenge. To find answers, the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) conducted research designed to uncover opportunities and barriers attracting more Ohioans to rewarding careers in manufacturing. Here are seven key findings:

1. Perceptions of manufacturing are generally favorable, but lack clarity.

Respondents agree that manufacturing is important to national and local economies. They believe there is an abundance of available jobs. Still, the perceptions that the manufacturing workplace is "dirty, dark, and dangerous" persist, and respondents fail to describe manufacturing beyond established stereotypes. And while 58% might encourage others' interests in manufacturing, only 39% have been encouraged by others to consider the same. 

Initial perceptions of the manufacturing industry are positive (70%) overall). Gen X women (85%) and Gen X men (73%) have the most positive first impressions. Students (41%) and millennial females (57%) had the lowest initial impression of manufacturing.

2. Job seekers expect detailed information.

Respondents claim they spend a lot of time researching job opportunities and use online tools such as LinkedIn. Projected career path, statistical evidence of success, and information source credibility are equally important. 

Job switchers seek depth and detail in industry claims. They look for relatable stories and are frank and thoughtful in considering new careers. Switchers are more likely to be mid-life, female, with modest educational attainment, and much more open to manufacturing. 

  • 72% have switched careers at least two times

  • 71% have not achieved a bachelor's degree

  • 50% see manufacturing as potentially providing long-term career opportunities

3. Pay, benefits, and job stability messages are well-received.

Respondents found claims of good pay, job security, work-life balance, and good health benefits to be compelling. However, most need more information to convince them of credibility - they want statistics, sources cited, graphical representations, and specifics to make it more believable. They want to know what manufacturing sectors make up a specific statistic, what job levels it includes, what number of work hours it includes, and what the average manufacturing pay is in their specific locales.

4. Manufacturing is perceived as open to everyone.

Respondents perceive manufacturing as an industry that accommodates workers of all ages, educational attainment, ambitions, and backgrounds. This suggests an opportunity for manufacturers to reinforce those perceptions and attract a more diverse workforce. 

5. Variety in manufacturing needs more exposure. 

Respondents value creativity and self-expression alongside work-life balance and keep these top-of-mind in their job searches. But most have moderate to low expectations for how well manufacturers deliver on these aspects, and associate manufacturing with a high degree of monotony and repetition.

6. Leadership and growth opportunities need to be clarified. 

More respondents include leadership ambitions in their career goals but are unable to articulate leadership in a manufacturing context. As manufacturers communicate workplace opportunities, they should illustrate the long-term career path even as it fills the sector's immediate workforce needs. 

7. Focus on Tech and Manufacturing, not Tech versus Manufacturing.

Today's lives are tech-enabled. The more manufacturing can reflect the deep utilization of technology, the increasing sophistication of the manufacturing environment because of technology, and the sector's embrace of social and cultural tech media, the more likely manufacturing will be positioned as a relevant, "cool" workforce sector.

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