Has Manufacturing Created Its Own Worker Problems?

Why don’t young people go into manufacturing anymore?

Is it because they are not interested in “getting their hands dirty” in manual labor (a theory I know many people believe)? Is it because they see manufacturing in the U.S. as a dying industry? Or is it something else?

I am pondering this question after reading a recent column on the website of the Hartford Business Journal by Allen Samuel, executive director of Aerospace Components Manufacturers, a nonprofit cluster of independent Connecticut aerospace manufacturers.

Samuel says his industry faces a “silver tsunami” as large numbers of older, skilled workers head for retirement. Replacing them is difficult, he notes, urging that action must be taken.

We must fill the pipeline with new workers ready to be trained as the skilled work force that is our future. We must educate and enlighten our teachers, counselors, parents and high school students about our industry to attract the state’s young people. That is the key.

Notably absent from Samuel’s comments is the kind of root-cause analysis that is a key principle of lean. He doesn’t discuss (at least not in this column) why finding new young workers is so difficult. And as any lean devotee knows, you need to identify the cause of a problem to truly solve it.

A reader who identified himself as L. Hobbs of NOVAN Capital posted a comment on the column, offering his own analysis of the cause.

I came to the industry because I loved airplanes...and wanted to 'find a way'. I did...and it took me forty years of being 'beat up', lied to, laid-off. managed by 'mouth-breathers', assigned to money losing and irrelevant projects, pressured to work overtime on holiday weekends, birthdays, kids' graduations, anniversaries, hired and laid-off in the same week, had companies cease operations and shut down with no notices, severance or compensation...I loved airplanes...and still do! But the aviation 'industry' is simply an obsolete paradigm...and will continue to erode and shrink...until the 'industry' figures out...the problem is at the top...and NOT in the pipeline!

What is the cause? How do we “fill the pipeline”? What are your thoughts?

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