Young workers remained with manufacturers because of training opportunities, report says

Visible investment in employee development from employers is key to retention, especially among younger generations of workers. This article explores this idea as it relates to the manufacturing sector during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dive Brief:

  • In a recent survey, more than half of manufacturing employees under age 25 said they stuck with their employers because of training and development (69%) and career opportunities (65%), according to a July 15 study from the Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research.
  • Senior leaders are more satisfied with their companies’ development programs than frontline workers; 9 in 10 leaders were satisfied, according to the survey, while only two-thirds of frontline employees said the same.
  • While development is a key part of employee retention, manufacturers also should equip their frontline managers with the ability to support their workers, the Manufacturing Institute said.

Younger employees see development as a force for retention

% of respondents who cited the following as a reason for staying with current employer

Dive Insight:

Companies across the supply chain are struggling to hire new employees, and it’s creating supply chain bottlenecks.

“It’s impossible to increase capacity if you don’t have the labor,” Timothy R. Fiore, chair of the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said on a July press call. And this inability to increase capacity has led to record-high lead times.

For manufacturers, the limited supply of labor is compounded by a long-standing “image problem,” which makes it difficult to hire the workers companies need.

Reports have shown that manufacturers that include robust employee training in their organizational visions may be able to surpass the image problem and attract millennial and Gen Z candidates.

Workers of younger generations “expect companies to demonstrate a strong sense of purpose and want to be part of that,” Tooling U-SME said in its report – and a dedication to employee careers is one way to emphasize that. Employers may have even more reason to invest in talent strategies that attract that cohort as the economy recovers; workers under the age of 25 were more likely to be laid off than those ages 35 and older, particularly at small businesses, a Gusto report showed.

Manufacturers – and other employers with deskless employees – can find it difficult to create a medium for employee development. As such, employers have turned to mobile-enabled technologies that allow workers to access learning in real-time as they work, limiting disruption while still encouraging skill development.

The pandemic put these changes into overdrive, pushing employers to focus on employee training that could be accessed quickly anywhere, with flexibility to match the new world of work, Jay Titus of the University of Phoenix wrote on HR Dive. While traditional programs with a focus on degrees will still have their place, employers now have little choice but to experiment with learning programs outside that purview due to the changes brought by COVID-19.

For some employers, though, labor is not the only resource they can tap to increase productivity. Many companies are also leaning into robotics and automation, in order to do more with fewer employees, according to the Association for Advancing Automation, also known as A3.

“While advances in robot technology, ease of use, and new applications remain key drivers in robot adoption, worker shortages in manufacturing, warehousing, and other industries are a significant factor in the current expansion of robot use that we’re now seeing,” Jeff Burnstein, president of A3, said in a statement about the report. “COVID didn’t create the move toward automation, but certainly has accelerated trends that already were underway.”

Edwin Lopez contributed to this story.


This article was written by Kathryn Moody from Supply Chain Dive and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to