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New research shows a growing number of U.S. young people are receptive to frontline manufacturing work, with 83% of recently graduated 18- to 24-year-olds (part of Gen Z) viewing manufacturing as high-tech and modern, up from 69% the year prior.

Nearly half of all respondents (48%) also said they view manufacturing as very important today, according to a survey by Parsable, provider of the Connected Worker platform for frontline manufacturing and industrial work. The results come as an update to Parsable’s 2021 Gen Z survey, exploring the perceptions of recent Gen Z graduates so that manufacturing leaders can take action to attract this generation to a career in the industry.

Manufacturing continues to experience workforce challenges related to retirements and a tight labor market, making it difficult for manufacturers to continue to keep pace with consumer demands. Recruitment of new talent, particularly recent graduates and those beginning to explore careers, is critical to the future success of the manufacturing industry.

While a growing number of Gen Zers view manufacturing as an important industry, the survey findings this year also revealed that the generation’s proclivity for choosing to work for companies that prioritize environmental and sustainability goals is unlikely to be waived for high-tech environments or competitive salaries alone.

More than half of respondents (56%) say they would take a smaller salary and/or less benefits to work for a more environmentally responsible company. Additionally, 84% of respondents claim a company’s environmental and sustainability goals are very important or somewhat important when choosing a job. Of respondents who reported having concerns with pursuing a career in manufacturing, 13% believe it does not support making an environmentally, socially responsible and ethical impact.

“Parsable’s research this year revealed Gen Z increasingly views manufacturing as high-tech and modern, which is a step in the right direction for developing a resilient frontline workforce,” said Matt Belkin, CEO of Parsable.

“Parsable’s survey findings indicate a unique opportunity for companies to attract this generation into the industry through the use of digital tools that not only help younger workers advance their own industrial skill sets but can also help organizations gather invaluable frontline activity data,” Belkin said.

“That data can then be used to track, trend, and optimize frontline operations across sites, helping companies prioritize frontline safety and better implement and report on ESG initiatives – something the survey findings show is top of mind for Gen Z,” Belkin said.

Additional survey findings include:

  • More than half of respondents (53%) said manufacturing-focused programs were not available at school, and 68% noted greater availability of these programs would increase their interest in manufacturing-related careers.
  • Gen Z expects employers to provide/utilize technology to help them advance digital skills (18%), provide context for the work they are doing (15%) and provide more productivity/job satisfaction (15%).
  • While Gen Z turns to family the most for inspiration on choosing a career path (20%), more than half of respondents (57%) don’t personally know someone who works in manufacturing.

Parsable conducted the online survey the week of Sept. 5, 2022. The 1,000 U.S. respondents who completed the survey were aged 18 to 24 years old and graduated this year from high school, vocational/technical school or a university/college.