This blog has been the bearer of some bad news for the plastics industry lately, as we have discussed things like salary inflation, the low labor participation rate, and the great resignation.
But there is also some good news emerging from the post-pandemic recovery: Generation Z has a more positive view of the manufacturing sector than it did two years ago. An enterprise, cloud-based software company, Parsable, recently conducted a survey with some eye-opening results.
Anyone born from 1997 on is considered a part of Gen Z. For purposes of the workforce, this would be those currently in the 18- to 24-year-old range. Part of the worker shortage problem that the plastics industry faces is the ability to attract those just entering the workforce, as we compete with industries perceived to be “cooler,” more interesting, and with better pay and benefits.
Parsable surveyed 1,000 people in that age range who either graduated high school, vocation/technical school (two-year program), or a university/college (four-year program).
More than half of the respondents said their views on manufacturing changed because of the pandemic, as shortages in everything from toilet paper to automobiles affected their daily lives. Of those whose views changed, 77% said they now view manufacturing as more important than they did previously.
Overall, 58% of those who had graduated recently from a four-year college or university said they were interested in a career in manufacturing; ditto for 43% of recent vocational graduates.
I believe this is a step in the right direction to attract this demographic into plastics manufacturing, although perception gaps remain around things like the meaningfulness of the work, the perceived skill levels required, and the perceived lack of diversity.
But the number-one misconception involves pay. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents believe that entry-level manufacturing jobs pay less than the overall average. According to Glassdoor, the average manufacturing salary for a newbie (less than one year experience) is close to $60,000, versus the entry-level salary of about $40,000 across all industries.
About the author
Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].