How We Recruit Young Talent to Manufacturing

April 1, 2015
In an effort to attract young talent, Turner Machine, a custom machine builder and full-service machine shop in Smyrna, Tenn., got creative in its recruitment methods.

Over the next 10 years, the United States will need to fill 3.5 million manufacturing jobs, according to new research from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute – but 2 million of those jobs are likely to go unfilled due to lack of skilled employees.

Part of the difficultly in closing that gap is dispelling the negative stereotypes of the manufacturing industry, as well as reintroducing today’s youth to the art of building things. All too often today the average person’s perception of manufacturing is based on gritty images from the Industrial Revolution, along with notions of unfulfilling work at minimal pay. But that’s far from today’s reality and that’s why it’s important to make sure your recruitment techniques reflect the evolution of the manufacturing industry.

In an effort to attract young talent, Turner Machine, a custom machine builder and full-service machine shop in Smyrna, Tenn., got creative in our recruitment methods. 


Unlike many manufacturers who eliminated training programs during the recession for financial reasons, Turner Machine still provides traditional apprenticeships.  As the price of higher education increases, the benefits of providing apprenticeships are twofold. Not only can you attract young talent who wouldn’t otherwise have the financial means to afford training school, but apprenticeships can be easily tailored to meet your company’s needs.

Social Media

There is no quicker way to get your company’s name in front of today’s youth than through social media. Turner Machine uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to recruit the next generation of manufacturing workers. The content we post on social media includes videos and photos of the shop, new machines and company culture activities, like our annual chili cook-off. Not only does this allow our company to raise our online visibility, but it also allows us to engage with potential recruits through a platform in which they are most comfortable.

Student Shop Tours

Use class tours to your advantage. Aside from giving you the opportunity to show that your shop is far from the outmoded stereotype of a dirty, dimly-lit factory, it also allows you the opportunity to showcase what the manufacturing industry is like today. Don’t bog students down in the facts and history of your company, instead, turn the tables and make the visit about them. Most schools across the country have eliminated “shop class” or technical curriculum, in favor of more college-friendly programs. Without that early exposure to those programs, students do not have the opportunity to discover if they would be interested in manufacturing.

With that in mind, Turner Machine introduced a class about “The World of Building Things” during a student tour of our shop last year. Each student was taught how to use one of the machines to build and monogram their own keychain. By giving them hands-on experience, it introduced these young people to a world of interesting and fulfilling work, far from the monotonous, dead-end tasks they may have associated with manufacturing.

During the tour, we also gave them a glimpse of our company culture. We provided a build-your-own baked potato bar for lunch before we arranged them by birth order and handed out DiSC personality tests. In doing so, we were able to identify their various personality traits and explain to them which sector (machining, marketing, engineering, etc.) they would best fit in the manufacturing industry. That assessment demonstrated the industry’s need for a variety of professionals, including women.  From that tour alone, we recruited two students.

Community Outreach

Another way to recruit young talent is through outreach in the community. With stereotypes working against us, we know we have to be proactive if we want to find the next generation of manufacturers. Reach out to local high schools. Talk to guidance counselors or science teachers to find out if there are any students who show natural aptitude toward manufacturing with whom they could connect you. If that doesn’t result in any new employees at first, keep trying.

Also, consider visiting target-rich environments like science fairs, drag races or local auto part stores. Such places are teeming with untapped talent primed with mechanical aptitudes, but make sure your approach is appropriate and reflects your company. Millennials are not only looking for a job, but a place where their accomplishments are acknowledged and they feel valued. If a potential recruit can feel that from the moment they come into contact with your company, you have a better chance of transitioning that recruit into an employee.

In the end, you have to be creative in your recruitment methods. You have to be flexible. With the rise of technology, things are moving faster than ever have before, so it’s imperative to stay on top of trends and identify how you can use those trends to your advantage during recruitment. As we quickly approach the mass exodus of Baby Boomers, we must make sure we have the talent in place to carry the industry through a seamless transition and into the bright future ahead.

Jeff Turner is CEO of Turner Machine Co. in Smyrna, Tenn., which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year of manufacturing for the global manufacturing industry.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!