For the class of 2014, the future seems bleak. In a recent study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, the authors say labor effects of the Great Recession have “idled” recent graduates. The longest and most severe period of economic weakness has many well-educated young Millennials asking, “Will I ever have the career I want?”

“There are no good jobs out there.”

The unemployment rate for college grads has grown to 8.5% -- up 3% from 2007. But even more worrisome, many prospective workers are not even looking. One million potential employees have simply given up, sending underemployment rates spiraling to 16.8%. This trend has a potentially catastrophic effect, not just on these individuals’ futures, but also on the nation’s prospects. Parents, economists and corporate CEOs know: Recent graduates are sitting out years when they should be gaining rich professional experiences, climbing the corporate ladder and growing their salaries, not to mention contributing to the country’s tax base.

“There’s a shortage of talent out there.”

There’s another side to this story. Manufacturers say they have jobs a-plenty, but they’re in an industry that doesn’t have the cache of leading technology companies such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook or industry disrupters such as BuzzFeed, Nest and Uber.

The manufacturing industry is struggling to attract, hire and retain talent for roles ranging from skilled production workers, to R&D and big data experts, to operational and business managers. This infographic on the top talent challenges in today’s manufacturing environment provides insights on key drivers behind the manufacturing shortage. They include:

Lack of interest and negative perception of manufacturing -- 52% of all teenagers say they have no interest in a manufacturing career. Of those uninterested youth, 61% cited wanting a “professional career,” no doubt maintaining the perception that a manufacturing career entailed a “dirty, dangerous place that requires little thinking or skill from its workers and offers minimal opportunity for personal growth or career advancement.”

Industry needs are shifting -- While there will always be a need for low-cost workers for commodity manufacturing, disruptive technology has transformed the talent profile for much of the industry. What’s needed: knowledge workers who can leverage big data analytics programs, 3D modeling and printing, and robotics, among other emerging technologies, to drive product and process innovation to new heights, while accelerating development cycles. 

However, attracting and retaining skilled employees requires a new approach. Companies will need to create new talent development paradigms to compete for top talent, as well as implement programs to upskill or cross-skill workers who don’t have the right background to build and maintain a sustainable workforce.

The gray shift goes dark -- The silver tsunami, or mass retirement, of aging workers threatens to wash away corporate knowledge and slow progress towards strategic goals. The baby boomer generation of skilled workers will retire in the next five to 15 years, creating the need for an estimated 10 million new workers by 2020.