Changing Workforce / Workforce Development / Workforce Diversity / STEM Education

Perspective: High school junior explains why manufacturing is not reaching teens and Millennials

By Claire Kapitan, for IndustryWeek

Mar 11, 2019

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As a high school junior, my understanding of manufacturing is limited. Concepts such as lean methodology are alien. But this isn't because of my education.

I attend a private, all-girls Catholic high school where technology is strongly incorporated into my school curriculum. 3D printers, glass and wood laser cutters, and robotics materials are readily available for us to use and experiment with. However, engineering is an elective class, and if you do not have prior knowledge or interest in engineering coming into high school, you are unlikely to pursue this as a career interest.

Older generations achieved success with security in work and finances. Most teenagers, on the other hand, don’t care as much about safety and reliability as they do about finding purpose and passion in their work. The younger generation strives for freedom, happiness, and the reassurance that their work is an asset to the larger world and is bettering their community.

Even when scanning the IndustryWeek website for stories to read, I found that I was attracted more to the stories that involved advancements in gender equality in manufacturing, how companies are being awarded for sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint, and how diversity is encouraged in STEM fields.

Manufacturing and factory jobs don't appeal to me—and most high school students I know—because they are associated with confinement, boredom, and little room for individual advancement or creativity.