Extreme Makeover: Workforce Edition

During a session entitled Preparing for the Future Workforce at the recent ARC Advisory World Forum, a panel discussed how manufacturing companies deal with--or soon will deal with--retirement of many skilled, experienced engineers, technicians, and operators, and replace them with the "millennial generation" with its distinctly different learning and working tendencies. One key takeaway came from Peter Zornio, chief strategic officer at Emerson Process Management, who said one thing that makes this generation-changing issue more acute, at least in the U.S. and western Europe, is “as the boomers have retired, there’s been a growing hole that wasn’t being continually backfilled by the Gen X era. That was during a period in manufacturing about 20 years ago of not much hiring and an increase in outsourcing of jobs.” 

His point was that in prior eras, as the experienced veterans left, there was an existing pool of workers with 15-20 years of experience already in place to ease the transition. “They’re a scarce resource for which we’ll need a special set of resources aimed at retaining the 20-year vets that we do have in our workforce,” Zornio added.So, while figuring out the millenials is a critical task, here’s yet another reason to never lose track of the importance of making sure you’re doing whatever it takes to retain the skilled, experienced engineers and technicians who aren’t ready to retire yet, but hold a vast amount of company knowledge that has to be passed along at some point.

Joe Feeley is editor in chief for Control Design and Industrial Networking. Email him at jfeeley@putman.net or check out his Google+ profile.

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  • <p>So If I understand the point correctly, a forty year old engineer is almost ready for pasture and we need to encourage more kids to enter engineering as a profession. There is no shortage of engineers per se, only a shortage if engineers willing to work 70 hours a week for 50k.</p>

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  • <p>To be clear, the speaker was saying that the 60 somethings (who have those 40 or so years of experience) are leaving without a "normal" supply of those now in their 40s (who have 20 years of experience) to take their place. Since there are fewer of these 40/20s, more responsibility will fall on the millennials.</p> <p>I'll leave it to the community to further comment on the effect of salary levels on that supply of 40/20s. </p>

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