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Generation Now Leadership: Manufacturing’s Young Talent Steps Forward

May 2, 2023
A new series will share the varied paths taken by younger manufacturers as they pursue leadership careers.

The manufacturing industry has made it clear: We need more young people in manufacturing. A well-documented exodus by workers approaching retirement, compounded by early exits spurred by COVID-19, has left a raft of vacancies. Moreover, fresh talent spurs fresh ideas.

The need is everywhere, from the shop floor to the quality department, from the sales desk to the engineering lab, from the plant manager to the C-suite executive.

The influx of new talent has needs as well. For information, for guidance, for opportunities to grow in their current roles and advance into positions of greater responsibility.

In this climate, IndustryWeek is launching a series aimed at young professionals looking to lead. We won’t offer advice elicited from seasoned manufacturing leaders (although they can be an excellent source of advice). Nor will we share results from polls or questionnaires (which may also provide important data).

Instead, we’re going straight to the sources, speaking to manufacturing leaders still early in their careers. We’re asking them: How did you do it? How did you get to that position so fast? What advice can you give me?  

Among the prompts for this series was a Reddit post focused on manufacturing and the supply chain. A Reddit user proposed a question regarding manufacturing and the supply chain, and the respondent was a manufacturing leader under age 30. With his response, the Reddit thread quickly took a turn to, “How did you achieve that position at such a young age?”

Similar and follow-up questions quickly rolled in from young manufacturers hungry for insights into leadership and career advancement. While Reddit may have gotten the thought process rolling, we at IndustryWeek wanted to assist as well.

To that end, we reached out to young manufacturing leaders and asked them to share their stories of “how I got here.” The restrictions were few: We were looking for leaders 35 or younger, and they had to work in manufacturing across any of the myriad functions that comprise this business.

They responded, and now we are sharing those stories with you.

Today IndustryWeek launches the series Generation Now Leadership. We begin by dropping in on Will Patrick, area leader at the J.M. Smucker Co. In the coming weeks, we will share the stories of additional young manufacturers and how they achieved their leadership positions. Let’s get started. 

Generation Now stories focus on challenges and opportunities facing industry as multiple generations of leaders take on responsible roles in manufacturing. The first piece ran in the spring of 2022 and won a national award for manufacturing business writing.

Stories include:

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